Cash trouble cripples Sonipat markets

No deal:Vegetable sellers wait for customers at a mandi in Sonipat, Haryana, on Wednesday; Ajit Singh Gulia (below) who runs the Haryana Seed Development Corporation store that accepts the demonitised Rs.1,000 and Rs.500 currency notes.Photos: V. Sudershan  

Demonetisation hasn’t hindered farmers’ access to seeds and fertilisers, but it has delayed payments due on short-term produce like vegetables.

According to the 2011 agricultural census, three quarters of Sonipat’s 2,13,000 hectares is agricultural land, of which over 95 per cent is irrigated by canals and borewells.

Farmers here are already midway into sowing wheat, mustard, sugarcane, fodder, and assorted vegetables.

Line of credit

However, the latter is largely a crop grown during the transition between the summer harvest and winter sowing, and is at the centre of their cash troubles. “I have a line of credit with the moneylender,” said Prem Singh Pawar, 64, military-man-and-clerk-turned farmer.

“About Rs.10,000 is due but that will remain (in our accounts)…and we’ll adjust. I have not had a problem with getting wheat seeds.” This assertion seems to be borne out by data from the Union Ministry of Agriculture. As of November 11, rabi crop had been sown on 146.85 lakh hectares compared to 126.71 lakh hectares at this time in 2015. Wheat had been sown/transplanted in 25.72 lakh hectares as opposed to 18.65 lakh hectares last year.

Palpable crisis

But the crunch of readily-available cash is palpable. In the town’s main vegetable market where, apart from fresh produce, seeds, pesticide and fertilizer are traded, private traders are furious. “Sales of pesticides and fertilizers are down 50 per cent,” said Ashok Gupta, 30, a trader, “Nobody is buying anything and our stocks are fast approaching the expiry date. They will be useless in two weeks.”

Mr. Gupta said his business was heavily dependent on cash, but added that he “occasionally” deposited some savings in his bank account. This year, he saw customers shifting to the Haryana Seed Development Corporation store — a State-run store three doors away — that was accepting the demonetised Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes. “We got a call from the Agriculture Department asking us to accept these notes,” said Ajit Singh Gulia, who runs the store.

“But I spend a few hours after lunch everyday to deposit these notes,” he said. The State-run store stocks at least eight varieties of wheat and has a steady stream of buyers. Customers who take more than five sacks (roughly 40 kg a sack) and bring old notes must deposit a copy of their photo identity.

Definite lull

The vegetable market, meanwhile, was bustling with deals being struck on tomatoes, cauliflower and potatoes, but Inder Prakash Gupta, general secretary of the vegetable traders’ association, said there was a definite “lull”.

“We have long relationships and can handle the lack of money for sometime,” the farmer-cum-moneylender told The Hindu , but added that “nearly 40 to 50 people were losing about Rs.15 to Rs.20,000 per day.”

Private traders in the town’s vegetable market, where seeds, pesticide and fertilizer are traded, are upset

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Printable version | Sep 27, 2021 7:47:17 AM |

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