Few buyers for our produce that is selling at throwaway prices: farmer

Desperation was etched on the face of Yellappa Huded, a farmer of Haravi village in Manvi taluk, on Monday when he said: “Small farmers like me have only two options: either give up agriculture to migrate to cities, or commit suicide.” His paddy was lying on the outskirts of the village unsold even 20 days after the harvest.

“Last year, traders had rushed to the villages and purchased the produce for a good price. This year, nobody is turning up even for buying it at throwaway prices,” he told The Hindu, standing beside his paddy pile.

It is the same story for all the paddy farmers in Manvi and Raichur taluks, whose lands are irrigated by the tail-end of the Tungabhadra Left Bank Canal (TLBC). The paddy grown on about one lakh acres in these two taluks remain unsold. Such paddy heaps, found in almost every village, are covered with plastic sheets to protect them from rain.

Some better off

Farmers with big landholdings have been able to store their unsold paddy in private and co-operative godowns, at a rent of Rs. 2 per bag for a month. However, small farmers have to keep their paddy in the open. They keep moving the bags from one place to another once in two days, to avoid decay. They spend the night beside their piles to protect them from thieves.

Reasons

The farmers blame the crisis on mismanagement of the Irrigation Department in the distribution of TLBC water. “Since huge tracks of agricultural land are illegally irrigated at the upper part of TLBC, the legitimate and authorised lands in the lower part don’t get sufficient water. It is only after the upper part is completely satisfied, that the remaining water flows to the lower part and the tail-end. Late paddy transplantation and insufficient water not only reduces the quantity of production, but also results in low quality paddy and broken-rice, leading to drastic price drop,” said Shashidhar, a farmer of the village.

An acre of land with sufficient water grows up to 40 bags (75 kg each) of paddy. But, this year the quantity has reduced to an average of 22 bags. Similarly, the price for a bag of paddy has dropped from Rs. 1,300 in January and to Rs. 900 in May this year. Reduced quantity and quantity coupled with price drop has worsened the condition.

“The farmers have spent around Rs. 25,000 on each acre. They can only get back half of what has been spent on the crop,” said Mr. Shashidhar. Being a farmer with better landholdings, he is expecting a loss of around Rs. 5 lakh.

Those who have grown paddy on leased land are worse off as they have to give 10 bags of paddy (for each acre) to the landowner as per the lease agreement.

When asked about minimum support price (MSP) fixed by the government, the farmers became furious. “It is almost impossible for the majority of ordinary farmers to sell their produces at procurement centres for MSP as they cannot meet the requirements that the government stipulates,” they said.

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