Perambalur farmers in Tamil Nadu seek processing centre, MSP for shallots

Farmers reeling from recurring losses, are further affected by the lack of effective solutions to basal rot disease which decimates yields.
Perambalur has topped in shallot cultivation for a decade
Perambalur has topped in shallot cultivation for a decade Photo | M K Ashok Kumar, EPS

PERAMBALUR: In predominantly rural Perambalur, shallot is the go to-top for farmers of more than 100 villages. Despite the region topping the charts for shallot cultivation for over a decade, farmers here have been hit by dwindling prices and persistent threat of basal rot disease.

Shallots, cultivated in 10,000 has thrice every year, has traditionally been a cornerstone of the local economy, with produce not only catering to domestic demand but also finding its way into international markets. However, the rosy facade of this agricultural success story hides the harsh realities faced by the farming community.

Sometimes, when cultivation and yield increase, the small onions are sold at a price of Rs 5 per kg. Farmers reeling from recurring losses, are further affected by the lack of effective solutions to basal rot disease which decimates yields.

A glimmer of hope emerged a decade ago with the establishment of an onion storage godown in Chettikulam, at a cost of `1.14 crore, to turn small onions into value-added products, thus ensuring good prices for farmers. For a few months, farmers and traders were invited and live auctions were held. However, this beacon has since dimmed due to neglect and lack of maintenance.

Following this, farmers have been insisting the collector in grievance meetings to open the onion godown. Similar demands were made to DMK and AIADMK candidates during 2019 Lok Sabha election and 2021 state polls. But no action has been taken so far.

Now, the farmers have made similar demands to candidates contesting from the Perambalur parliamentary constituency in hope that their voices will be heard. Their demands include a fixed MSP for shallots, a factory to manufacture value-added products from shallots and measures to procure and sell them through PDS shops.

Tamil Nadu Farmers Association District President N Chelladurai said, "Recently at a private exhibition in Perambalur, I saw products made from shallots including onion paste, powder, pickle and oil. These should be manufactured here for domestic use and exported abroad. This will provide enough profit to the farmers who are struggling without getting a fair price for their produce."

"When shallot prices are up by Rs 60-100 per kg, farmers get low returns because they do not sell directly. Traders and middlemen make a profit by buying from farmers and selling them. Every harvest season, it is difficult for the farmers to get money spent on cultivation. Onion is cultivated only in a few districts. When the price of shallot goes up, the government should fix the right price for it and procure it directly from farmers and sell it through ration shops," he added.

Chelladurai said when the yield is high they are not able to save it for seed. Thus, a cold storage facility should be set up to store the shallots. As Perambalur shallot is popular in Asia, it should be given a GI tag, he stated.

A Sethuraman, a farmer from Chettikulam said, "A facility is available in Chettikulam godown for farmers to store onion. But it has been inactive for many years. If the authorities open it and bring traders here, we are likely to get a minimum price without middlemen. Otherwise, we may have to sell at lowest price suggested by traders."

Another farmer S Ragavan said, "I spend Rs 30,000 per acre for planting the crop. But we could not get even this money back. When the price is high, shallots suffer from basal rot diseases and there is no yield. When the yield is high there is no price. So, the government must provide a minimum support price for the produce. Also, farmers have to take the onion to Tiruchy market and sell it. This increases cost of transportation. A market should be set up in Perambalur or arrangements should be made to sell in a regulated market here."

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