Firoz Rozindar

Chitradurga: Extensive damage to the groundnut crop has directly affected oil mills in the district, which are now faced with heavy losses. According to the Agriculture Department, over 80 per cent of the groundnut crop in the district has been destroyed by untimely rain.

Of the 3.5 lakh hectares of cultivable land in Chitradurga district, groundnut is grown on 1.5 lakh hectares, making it a major crop, which is the backbone of nearly 70 oil mills. Fifty of them are located in Challakere taluk alone, which has the largest area under groundnut in the district, at 81,490 hectares.

Besides oil mills, the district has nearly 150 groundnut shelling units, which together employ over 6,000 people. Several others at the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) yard earn their livelihood when the crop is harvested. “The Challakere APMC alone has over 150 bullock-cart owners, transport agencies and several hundred hamalis who are largely dependent on the mills for survival,” said K. Nagaraj, former president of the Challakere Chamber of Commerce. He said the mills employed workers from over 50 villages who earned Rs. 100 a day.

He said the mills had an annual turnover of over Rs. 70 crore, and they required nearly 14,000 quintals of groundnut to produce 600 tonnes of oil every day. But owing to the crop loss, production might come down to only 20 per cent this year.

Mill owners seem to be in for a tough period. On the one hand, they will not receive adequate seeds and, on other, the Union Government has reduced import duty on oil to zero per cent.