Bharath T., an engineering diploma holder who quit his job to become a floriculturist, has been turning away labourers coming to his farm in J. Venkatapura, Vijayapura, near Devanahalli, to harvest marigold flowers. The yellow flowers are in full bloom on four acres while buds in the remaining four acres will bloom in the next fortnight or so.
But, with no takers for flowers, he is not sure if he can even afford to harvest the flowers this time. “I pledged my mother’s gold jewellery to raise money for the saplings and fertilisers. I even bought tankers to water the farm. I will not be able to recover the investment,” he rued.
The city’s sole flower market in K.R. Market has remained closed since the government announced a curfew a few weeks ago. With flower vendors forced to do business outside the market for just a few hours, it has had a direct effect on floriculturists like Mr. Bharath.
With no buyers, many floriculturists have resorted to dumping their produce by the roadside.
Govinda Y.D., a floriculturist from Gerahalli in Chikkaballapura, told The Hindu that chrysanthemum (sevantige) that normally yields ₹100 a kilo was being sold for ₹20 a kilo. “It is not even worth hiring labourers to harvest the flowers. Best option is to let it rot and become manure,” he said caustically. Apart from chrysanthemum, he has also invested nearly ₹3 lakh on growing rose plants on one acre. “I am not sure what to do with the roses,” he said.
Many floriculturists are in dire straits, says G.M. Divakar, president of the K.R. Market Flower Merchants’ Association. Just 10% of the flowers that used to come to the bustling K.R. Market are coming to the city now. “We used to get a variety of cut flowers, different varieties of roses, tuberose (sugandaraja), firecracker flower (kanakambara), jasmine, kakada, marigold (chandu hoova) and chrysanthemum (sevantige) from several areas surrounding the city, such as Kanakapura, Malur, Chikkaballapur, Doddaballapur, Anekal, Hoskote, Devanahalli. Now, floriculturists are not sending flowers,” he said.
The 140 shops selling flowers inside the historical market have been closed. “Alternate arrangements were made for vegetable and fruit vendors, but not us. Vending from the road is unsafe and we are not able to ensure people maintain social distance,” he admitted.
He sought to know why farmers and floriculturists were not a priority for the government. “The government allowed wine shops since revenue from them is certain. Farmers’ plight is being ignored,” he said.
With the Karnataka government announcing a complete lockdown from May 10 to 24, the floriculturists are unsure of what to do with their produce.