Vegetable bowl in distress

A Correspondent
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It is peak harvest season in Vattavada, known as the vegetable bowl of Kerala. However, the Vattavada Cool Season Vegetable Marketing Society, formed in July last year under the Idukki Package for procuring vegetables directly from farmers, is facing problems owing to inadequate orders from Kerala State Horticultural Products Development Corporation Ltd. (Horticorp).

Only a fraction of the total production is being acquired by Horticorp. On Tuesday, the society sent only one-third of the vegetables procured to Horticorp as there were not enough orders.

As per records available with the Vattavada grama panchayat, for the past 20 days, nearly 50 tonnes of vegetables have reached the market here. Of this, a major portion has been procured by businessmen from Tamil Nadu.

K. Jayaprakash, president of the society, told The Hindu that the major problems being faced by the society were the lack of orders and delay in getting the prices to the farmers.

From April till date, Horticorp has procured vegetables to the tune of Rs.18 lakh. However, Rs.9 lakh remains to be paid to the farmers.

A much-touted procurement centre by the Vegetables and Fruit Promotion Council, Keralam, is yet to take off. Except for garlic, farmers cannot hold over the stock even for a day as the vegetables tend to spoil, especially during the rainy season.

G. Mohanadas, panchayat president, said the prices were decided as per the demand in the Madurai market where vegetables from other States also reached for auction. All the vegetables sent to the main market there were absorbed, though prices tended to fluctuate a lot.

He said almost all the farmers were ready to provide vegetables to the society if they received the money in time. Though the Vattavada vegetables were considered to be of better quality, the prices fetched in the auction in the Madurai market were not remunerative as these had to compete with larger and better-shaped vegetables arriving there from other States. However, the farmers preferred to sell their produce to the businessmen from the Madurai market as they got ready cash, he said.

The main aim of the society is to sell directly the Vattavada vegetables in various markets in the State to control the prices and ensure the availability of better quality vegetables. Now, a large chunk of the vegetables goes to Tamil Nadu and from there, it reaches the markets in the State along with the vegetables from other States.

Mr. Mohanadas said though the initial production this season was better as compared to that in the previous season, the continuous rain could result in decay of tubers such as carrot that were yet to be harvested.

The cool season vegetables are harvested here from May to September, and the lean season vegetables from October to November.

Other major problems faced by the farmers were shortage of water and large areas under cultivation of Eucalyptus grandis . As per official estimates, only 3,500 acres of the 7,000 acres of land owned by the farmers is under vegetable cultivation.

Mr. Mohanadas said every year, farmers were shifting from vegetable cultivation to growing eucalyptus as they thought it was profitable. Lack of irrigation facilities was also a reason for the declining area under vegetable cultivation. Though vegetable cultivation was the main source of income in the village, the youth were more interested in working as daily wage labourers in the timber sector, which was flourishing with the shift in pattern of cultivation from vegetables to Eucalyptus grandis , he said.



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