‘Kisan Rail’ brings no cheer to farmers

Tomato traders, farmers say they ended up in losses in the first experiment

Published - September 19, 2020 08:04 am IST - ANANTAPUR

South India’s First “Kisan Rail” flagged off from Anantapur (Andhra Pradesh) to Adarsh Nagar in New Delhi. File photo

South India’s First “Kisan Rail” flagged off from Anantapur (Andhra Pradesh) to Adarsh Nagar in New Delhi. File photo

The first-ever Kisan Rail of South India might have been launched with much fanfare and received the attention at the national level with two Union Ministers and Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh formally flagging off the exclusive fruits and vegetables train from Anantapur. But, did it derive the desired result?

The district administration, on the advice of Anantapur Mmeber of Parliament Talari Rangaiah and the officials of Horticulture and Agriculture Department put in a lot of effort to make the first-ever consignment a success. Joint Collector (revenue) Nishant Kumar told The Hindu that in the first Kisan Rail 80% was tomato and they got a good price (₹57 a kg) over Anantapur market (₹40 a kg).

The officer along with Horticulture Department officials visited a couple of tomato mandis on the city outskirts and persuaded them to send as much quantum as possible to fill the second train scheduled to leave Anantapur on September 19.

S. Panduranga Rao, one of the traders, who had sent his tomatoes to Delhi in the train showed the bill, which said he would receive ₹5,31,900 deducting ₹38,100 towards labour charges. When asked about the cost he incurred, Mr. Panduranga Rao said cost per crate of 15 kg at Anantapur was ₹925 and transport cost was ₹180 per crate with arrival cost at Delhi mandi working out to be ₹1,105 per crate. So he had spent ₹8,28,750, while he got ₹5,31,900 sale proceeds leading to total loss of ₹2,96,850 on 750 crates.

A chat with the Tomato Mandi Owners’ Association here revealed that many of the traders and farmers, who had sent their produce to Delhi, ended up in losses and are now in no mood to send their tomatoes again to Delhi as the prices had fallen there too. The key reason for their aversion to sending the tomatoes by train is 50% of the stock getting damaged in the process of transportation from the farmer’s field to Delhi mandi.

Lengthy exercise

“The produce gets handled in the crates at least for six times -- at the farm, at the railway station in Anantapur, at Delhi, and again at Delhi Mandi if it is sent by train compared to just twice if sent by a lorry,” pointed out association president C. Amarnath. “In the lorry the three sides are open and circulation of air ensures temperature of tomatoes does not rise, whereas in the train bogie, which is fully sealed except for a small vent, the consistency of the produce dwindled and entire inside turned watery,” added Sanjeev Rayudu, another member.

To honour the word of district administration, the traders decided to buy produce from Chintamani and Kolar in Karnataka as the quality in Anantapur would not fetch them good price. They suggested that the Railways run just two bogies along with the daily Rajadhani Express from Bengaluru to Delhi so that even small farmers could fill part of the 23-tonne bogie. Each average individual farmer would have a maximum of a tonne or two of produce to send on any given day, they added.

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