Middlemen siphon off our profits, complain farmers

Farmers in Karur district who raise korai grass have urged the State government to take steps to abolish the reign of middlemen and brokers who siphon away the profit of cultivators.

The grass grown on large tracts of land are yet to be harvested due to a deadlock in pricing. Korai, the fibre grass which is famous for matting in India, is widely cultivated along the right banks of the Cauvery River in the district.

It is cultivated in more than 2,500 acres of land in Paramathi, Vangal, Kuppuchipalayam, Achammapuram, Nanniyur, and N.Pudur. This once fertile stretches have been ravaged by industrial pollution and the farmers who were cultivating paddy, banana, sugarcane, and turmeric had to turn to korai to withstand the pollution. At present, more than 15,000 farmers and farm labourers were engaged in korai cultivation.

After harvest, the grass is bundled and despatched to the mat manufacturing units in Karnataka, West Bengal, and Rajasthan, and Salem, Omalur, Musiri, Kurinjipadi, Vaniyambadi and Kayathar within the State.

Farmers claim that they were not getting adequate price for their produce as middlemen siphon of the meagre profits, and the prices too have remained stagnant for years.

Most farmers, who have come under the umbrella of Korai Grass Farmers Association, at a meeting at Nerur in Karur district here, complain that they are kept in the dark about the actual pricing and often end up losing the bargain.

President of the Association Chinnadurai pointed out that it was the agents who procure the grass from the farmers in the fields and take them to the mat weaving units and fix price according to their whims and fancies leaving the growers with no scope for bargaining.

The State government must create a regulatory mechanism on the lines of those for sugarcane and salt for korai grass, he said.

Farmers have stopped supply of korai grass since first week of March as the prices were not affordable and have demanded at least Rs.1,500 per bundle for 54 inch stem, Rs. 1,400 per bundle for 48 inch stem, and Rs. 900 a bundle for stems lesser than that.