Pudukottai farmers stare at loss as flowers wilt and fruits perish

Jackfruits left to rot at the Vadakadu- Keeramangalam belt in Pudukottai district due to poor demand.

Jackfruits left to rot at the Vadakadu- Keeramangalam belt in Pudukottai district due to poor demand.   | Photo Credit: Handout

Horticulture and floriculture farmers in Pudukottai district, especially in Alangudi taluk, have been hit hard by crash in prices of fruits and flowers.

Farmers who had grown banana, jack fruit and water melons and flowers including jasmine, crossandra, chrysanthemum, tube rose and rose have been badly hit by the lockdown in Alangudi, Anavayal, Vadakadu, Mangadu, Keeramangalam, Kothamangalam, Pullanviduthi, Panankulam, Kulamangalam, Neduvasal and many other villages in the district. Fruits are raised on about 5,800 hectares (ha) and vegetables on 1,500 ha in the district. Most of them are raised in the Alangudi-Karambakudi-Gandharvakottai region.

Given the price crash and poor demand, many farmers have not harvested banana and jack fruits, leaving them to ripe and rot in the trees. Flowers are not even plucked. Most farmers in the Vadakadu-Keeramangalam belt have about 10 to 20 jack fruit trees around their houses and many more in their farmers. Some raise the trees as inter-crop in coconut groves and others as a border crop, points out T. Kannan, a farmer of Senthankudi.

“The jack fruits bring a seasonal revenue of up to ₹50,000 to ₹1 lakh to the farmers. Being highly perishable, banana and jackfruits can hardly be preserved,” says G. S. Dhanapathy, district chairman, Farmers Forum of India. Small farmers are forced to sell the vegetables grown in their fields at throwaway prices. In the absence of public transport, they are not able to take the vegetables to mandis in the towns. These are farmers who cannot afford to or have adequate volumes to hire goods carriers, he says.

But this year, most of them stand to suffer heavy losses. “Farmers who had grown fruits and flowers in our area have been badly hit by the lock down – prices have crashed due to poor demand,” rues Mr. Kannan.

Normally, traders from various parts of the state used to visit the villages and procure the jack fruits. But this year, the lockdown came at the time when the fruits were ready for harvest. “Traders say that there is not much demand and offer just ₹50-100 for a good sized fruit which earlier used to command up to ₹500. At this rate, we will hardly be able to recoup what we have spent on the cultivation,” says Mr. Kannan.

Farmers like Mr. Kannan in the region allege that the government did not sanction compensation to jack fruits damaged in cyclone Gaja. At least now, the government come to our aid and come with some support, they demand.

Many farmers in villages such as Anavayal switched over to banana, flowers and vegetables after the coconut trees were felled by Cyclone Gaja. But all of them have suffered badly due to the lockdown despite good yields “Most farmers already had jack fruit trees. Last year, there was hardly any jack fruit yield after many trees were damaged in the cyclone. But this year, there was good yield but there are hardly any takers,” regrets M. R. Parthasarathy, a young progressive farmer of Anavayal.

According to Mr. Parthasarathy, on an average about 30,000 banana bunches were exported daily from Anavayal to Kerala and other towns in Tamil Nadu. “Now hardly 1,000 bunches are exported. Similarly, about 5,000 jack fruits will be sent from here every day. Today, just about 100 fruits are going out. Floriculture farmers are the worst hit as there is hardly any off take of flowers,” he says.

Some of the farmers like Mr. Parthasarathy suggest that the Department of Agri Business and Marketing should procure the fruits and flowers from farmers and market them to companies for making value added products.

“The price crash has put farmers into severe hardship as they are already facing a severe cash crunch. The government should extend them all support,” says Mr. Dhanapathy.

When contacted, a senior official of the Horticulture Department said that steps have been taken to arrange tie-ups between farmers and traders for marketing the produce. The District Collector has even held a meeting with traders and farmers to coordinate the process. Passes were being issued for goods carrier to transport farm produce to markets in other towns and cities. Instructions have also been given to police not to stop such vehicles. Fruits and vegetables are also procured from farmers and sold through mobile outlets.

A tie-up arrangement has also been arranged between floriculture farmers and a private lemongrass distillation unit at Annavasal in the district under which rose and jasmine will be supplied to the unit for oil extraction. About 300 kg of rose and jasmine has been supplied to the unit initially, he said.

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Printable version | Jul 2, 2020 9:31:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/pudukottai-farmers-stare-at-loss-as-flowers-wilt-and-fruits-perish/article31358608.ece

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