Fall in demand and disruption of transport networks to blame, say growers of vegetables and flowers

Chandrakanth Rama, a small farmer in Kalaburagi district, had two acres of onion and ladies finger yet to be harvested when the lockdown was imposed in the last week of April. As a result, while transport costs skyrocketed, prices crashed so severely that he decided not to harvest the crop at all.

The price offered was not even the quarter of what he would need to meet the costs. “If I sell at these rates, I will incur heavy losses considering what it costs to harvest and transport. So I am feeding the ladies finger to my cattle. As for the onions, I have asked the labourers to harvest and take home as much as they want for free,” Mr. Rama told The Hindu.

Produce dumped

This is the story of many farmers across Karnataka. A video clip of a watermelon grower in Sagar, Shivamogga, destroying his crop in frustration was widely shared. There was another of a jasmine grower dumping his harvest on the streets in the district, cursing the administration for the lockdown. Many tomato growers in Kolar and Chickballapur recently protested by throwing their produce on the street.

“A kilo of tomato was selling at less than ₹2, which wouldn’t have even recovered my transport cost, leave alone my investment. So I abandoned the crop at the market and returned,” said Adi Reddy, a tomato farmer from Kolar.

The fall in demand for vegetables, fruits and flowers, the disruption of transport networks, and high transport costs following the Statewide lockdown imposed for the past three weeks have hit these farmers hard.

Despite the lockdown guidelines clearly allowing free movement of all cargo, transport networks have been disrupted, especially inter-district and inter-State ones.

“For two weeks, vegetables were not being sent out of the State. This has now been resolved. The price of tomatoes improved to ₹7 to ₹9 a kg only after the supply to other States, including West Bengal and Bangladesh, resumed,” said G. Srinivasan, a farmer from Nandi and a member of HOPCOMS. He also said transport operators were charging several times more than usual, citing the lockdown, police harassment, and skyrocketing diesel prices. “Diesel prices have touched an unprecedented ₹90 a litre. This has also added to the farmers’ woes,” he said.

‘Inadequate relief’

The State government sop of ₹10,000 a hectare (₹4,000 an acre) for vegetable, fruit and flower growers has been dubbed “woefully inadequate” by farmers and farmers’ unions. “The amount they have promised to grant us does not compensate for the loss we are facing every day,” said Ganesh, a farmer from Hassan.

Kodihalli Chandrashekhar, president of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, said, “Not only is ₹4,000 an acre inadequate, the total outlay for this sop is less than ₹100 crore, which evidently shows not all farmers will get this relief as well.”

(With inputs by K.V. Aditya Bharadwaj, G.T. Sathish, and Kumar Buradikatti)

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