But farmers say fake fertiliser units point to official connivance
Better late than never is the response from the farming community to the mind-boggling revelations of the past fortnight in the wake of a series of raids on private outlets producing and selling chemical fertilisers, seeds and pesticides.
In all, 14 outlets were raided by officials who seized spurious pesticides and fertilisers – meant for sale in different markets in Madurai and the southern districts, including hill stations such as Kodaikanal.
The seized goods, which had no licence or approval from the government, has been valued at Rs.75 lakh.
Collector L. Subramanian set off the crackdown following complaints from farmers of Melur and Vadipatti, among others, during a farmers’ grievance redressal meeting. Pesticides and fertilisers used on their crops were not yielding results, they claimed. Pests were not being controlled, resulting in low yields and crop failure.
A team of officials led by Joint Director (Agriculture) Jayasingh Gnanadurai was formed about three weeks ago.
Initially, the inputs from the farmers were not sufficient. But when the team fanned out to different locations under the guise of farmers (buyers) and procured the goods from local outlets, the fake merchants were caught red-handed.
Small and marginal farmers from Kodikulam and Melur in the district told The Hindu that they were initially unaware of the spurious products. After seeing media reports, they realised they had been cheated, they admitted.
Said Arulprakasam, a farmer: “When we ask for a specific brand of spray for pest control, the shopkeeper would recommend an alternative…After being told of the low cost factor, a majority of farmers would tend to purchase the one suggested by the shopkeeper, which turned out to be fake.”
Pakkiri, another farmer, said, “We have a strong suspicion that some fertiliser dealers may be the brains behind the fake producers of farm commodities, who would have worked hand-in-glove with officials in the past.”
Farmers growing vegetables and fruits (papaya) in the Alanganallur belt recollect the problems they face from the ring spot virus, which kills the plant.
Frequent spraying using fake products to control pests sometimes introduces toxins which spoil the plants, as well as the environment.
Speaking of the raids and seizures, Mr. Gnanadurai explains that as per government norms, there are 22 units in Madurai district manufacturing various commodities for different crops. The authorities concerned have issued licences after inspecting the premises.
The bogus operations came to light after a private manufacturing company in Coimbatore sent a letter alerting the authorities a private dealer on North Masi Street in Madurai selling fake goods.
The officials had so far raided shops and godowns on East Masi Street, East Marret, Simakkal, Tallakulam, Sellur, Vilakuthoon and at Vedar Puliankulam, where a dealer had hoarded 75 tonnes of seeds valued around Rs 25 lakh.
The Assistant Director (Quality Control - Seeds) Suruli Bommu said that the network of erring operators functioned not only in different pockets within Madurai city, but also in the southern districts. The Madurai operator procured ingredients from Reddiyarpatti in Dindigul district and manufactured ‘zinc sulphate’ which was nothing but artificially coloured sand.
Similarly, the holograms affixed on the cartons were brought from Sivaganga and Paramakudi in Ramanathapuram districts. Further, the micro-nutrient chemicals used for vegetable and fruit crop were being sold through dealers in Kodaikanal and some parts of Kerala as well as the Nilgiris, he pointed out.
The drought last year brought farming activity virtually to a standstill. However, with good rains and adequate water for irrigation now, the ‘kuruvai’ crop area in the district is expected to cross the 10,500 ha mark, against the targeted area of 9,500 ha, officials say.
The Collector has appealed to farmers not to be lured by discount offers and cheap prices quoted by unauthorised dealers. Farmers can cross-check with the agricultural officers available in the 13 blocks of the district about the quality of the goods.
He appealed to farmers to share any information they possessed about spurious farm products on the market with agriculture department officials.
The identity of the informant would be protected, the Collector has assured farmers.