Supply-chain distortion of farm produce owing to the lockdown over COVID-19 has hurt both farmers and consumers. There have been reports from across the State of farmers, in despair, destroying their own crop.
Yogesh, a farmer who grew muskmelon in Sira, Tumakuru, said that with no labour for harvesting and no transportation facilities to take it to the market, his produce was left to rot in the field. “I gave all my fruits for free to whoever came to my farm. I spent another ₹10,000 to clear the land and throw away all the rotten fruits into a tank nearby,” he said.
Thimmanna B.G., a farmer who grew tomatoes at Hiriyur in Chitradurga, dumped 15 tonnes of his produce on a dry tank bed as he could not transport it to the market. “I invested ₹25 lakh, taking a loan of ₹17 lakh, only to throw my produce into a tank,” he said. He demanded that the government provide compensation to farmers.
In Belagavi, Azad Desai, a cabbage farmer from M. Mallapur village, let cattle graze on his one-acre cabbage crop that was ready for harvest, while, another farmer in the district ploughed through his cabbage field. At Shanivarasante in Kodagu, a farmer threw a truckload of chillies on to the street, while, over the last one week, several tomato growers dumped their harvest on the streets at the markets after it fetched only a pittance and there were no buyers in Kolar, Mandya and Tumakuru districts.
In Shikaripur, represented in the Assembly by Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa, and Sorab taluks of Shivamogga district, muskmelon and watermelon are rotting away in the fields. Prabhu Kumar C.B., a farmer from Shikaripur who has grown muskmelon of the Kohinoor variety on his two-acre plot, said, “Cracks have developed on the fruits owing to excess temperature. They are rotting in the field.”
Rangappa, a watermelon farmer from Sorab, said the owners of fruit mandis in Mumbai and Bengaluru had approached him in the second week of March to purchase his produce, but there are no takers now.
Yet another problem is the severe labour crunch in villages. “Labourers and drivers are scared and are not coming to work. Moreover, watermelons and muskmelons are harvested by specialised labourers who come from outside; they have also stopped work,” said Srinivas, a farmer from Srinivaspura in Kolar.
There is palpable anger against the government and elected representatives over what is being called an “ill-planned lockdown” and the government not coming to the rescue of farmers. In a video clip doing the rounds, a worried farmer from Belagavi, Bhima Nayak, has made an appeal to the government. “We don’t want the government’s free LPG and rice. What I and other farmers like me need is a market for the produce that we have grown on our fields.”
Farmers’ leaders said the crisis has put the spotlight on the lack of adequate cold storage infrastructure in the State. “Farmers are dumping their produce because of the absence of cold storage facilities at most APMC yards. There is no security for farm produce in the country,” said the Mysuru-based farm activist Vasanthkumar Mysoremath.
Kodihalli Chandrashekhar, president of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, came down heavily on both the Union and State governments for “shedding crocodile tears” for farmers. “It is commendable that the governments are ensuring workers are paid despite being given off. But farmers are suffering huge losses for no fault of theirs. The government must ensure minimum support price for all crops, failing which it must provide compensation to farmers,” he said.
(With inputs from Belagavi, Tumakuru, Chitradurga, Mysuru, Kolar and Bengaluru)
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