Shortage of labour, poor procurement price bane of farmers
Even as grape cultivation is slowing picking up in some traditional pockets of the district, shortage of labour and poor procurement price force progressive farmers to abandon the crop.
The main impediment for grape cultivation is the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme that pulled several agriculture labourers out of grape farms and pushed them into stream and tanks bunds for 100-day-work. Next comes the unexpected summer rain and early onset of monsoon.
Both labour and rain, once a backbone of the agriculture activities, have become destroyers of grape cultivation, said Selvaraj, a traditional grape-grower in A. Vellode near Dindigul. “Normally, we always depend on rain. Now, we cannot even accept the blessings of rain god,” he added.
On an average, farmers harvest around 10,000 kgs of fruits in one acre. With average procurement price of Rs.25 per kg, they get at least Rs.2.5 lakh in one season. “With no labour, we cannot harvest even 50 per cent of fruits grown in plants in time. Delay in harvesting damages fruits in the farm itself. Despite good harvest, farmers find difficulty in getting at least Rs.1 lakh from one acre, incurring huge loss. Now, traders procure grapes at Rs.15 a kg. But retail sale price is around Rs.40 and Rs.45 a kg.
Damage due to unexpected rain is temporary and bearable and the loss incurred is also manageable. But the damage due to shortage of labour is not only a continuous one but also unbearable and irrevocable, said the farmer.
Rain at the time of harvesting damages ripened fruits in the plants. Fissure developed on the fruits owing to rain spoil quality and scale down procurement price. “But we have no labour to remove even the damaged fruits from plants. Otherwise, it will spoil other fruits in the bunch,” they added.
The MNREGS has been slowly paralysing agriculture activities, particularly grape cultivation in several parts of the district, said farmers. Ultimately, grapes are not sweet to growers this season.