TIRUNELVELI: Thirty-five-year-old Velmurugan, who left his job as a tailor in Hosur to become a vegetable farmers a year ago, stood on his six acres in Tirunelveli, looking at his field of ripening cucumbers, okra, and guar (cluster beans).
The rains had been good and the soil held, giving him a good yield. But instead of happiness, Velmurugan's heart is heavy with fact that most of the yield is likely to rot and dry right there, for there is little demand for his produce.
"We spent over Rs 1,000 to cultivate and harvest one sack of okra (65-70 kgs). But, we were offered (at Thatchanallur market) a paltry Rs 70 for an entire sack. As for cucumber and guar, there were no takers at all. Nearly, four sacks of guar and two sacks of cucumber harvested this year are still in storage; the rest of the vegetables were left to rot on the field as we can’t afford to take any more loans to meet harvesting and transportation expenses," Velmurugan said.
Velmurugan, who spend the few lakhs of rupees he had saved up in growing the vegetables, is not alone in his plight. Many farmers of vegetables like onion, cucumber, okra, and guar in Tirunelveli are staring at loss despite having a good harvest, primarily because of a lack of demand and middlemen offering meagre prices for produce, according to sources.
Sixty-year-old Gomudurai, a farmer and a resident of Rastha near Manur, cultivates onion and okra on his two acres. "Last year, a kilogram of onion was sold at Rs 40-70. Now, however, it is being asked for as low as Rs 20 a kg. This when farmers spent a lakh an acre to cultivate the vegetable. As many as 13 sacks of onion, each weighing 65-70kg, are still in stock, while the rest are yet to be harvested," he said
When reached out to know the reason for this development, senior agriculture officials said, "During this season, farmers cultivate the same crop, resulting in a crash in prices in markets. Moreover, middlemen may also be a reason for farmers getting such low proceeds for their produce. We will be taking steps to allow farmers to sell their produce directly in the farmers' market."