Andhra Pradesh

Lockdown and two wet spells bring salt farmers misery

Salt being moved from a salt pan by workers in lockdown-bound Gundamala in Prakasam district.

Salt being moved from a salt pan by workers in lockdown-bound Gundamala in Prakasam district.  

Hopes of farmers getting decent returns shattered

Fifty-year-old P. Pitchaiah, a salt farmer from Motumala village near Kothapatnam, was hoping to get decent returns during this summer.

Now his hopes have been completely dashed in the wake of the lockdown in two spells announced by the Centre to combat coronavirus. Workers have not turned up at his salt pan for more than a month now to scrap salt and move it to safety.

‘’I am also unable to engage truck to move the produced salt in view of the lockdown in force,’’ laments the salt producer doing all that he could to move the scrapped salt to a godown nearby on his own amid the threat of a downpour.

The lockdown has come at most inopportune time as it was during April and May that salt production reaches the peak, explains another salt farmer Thambi Srinivasulu taking a short recess to talk to The Hindu . ‘’I am not in a position to break even after spending ₹45,000 per acre for salt extraction this year,’’ he says.

The wet spell twice during April has also brought misery to them. Another salt producer G. Raghava says ‘’every time rains occur salt production is held up for about 10 days.’’

Plea to govt.

Another farmer, K. Brahamanada Reddy, wants the State government to purchase salt from them and give it to people under the public distribution system. MGNREGS should be dovetailed with salt extraction works like for formation of field channels, strengthening of bunds and stamping of land for them to get some relief as severe labour shortage hit salt extraction.

“We are also ready to supply salt fortified with iodine to get a better rate for our produce,’’ they say and plead for institutional credit for processing the salt widely used in tanneries and chemical industrial units.

The power tariff, which used to be just 40 paise during the regime of the then Chief Minister, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, had gone up to ₹4.75 per unit as the government treated the sector as industry. The government should consider reducing the power tariff to at least ₹1.25 per unit charged for aquaculture units, demands Kothapatnam Salt Producers Cooperative Society president K. Nanchariah.

Over 2000 small and marginal farmers extract salt for six months in, among other mandals, Motumala, Biramkonda and Kothapatnam in Prakasam district till the onset of southwest monsoon and get on an average ₹100 per bag of 75 kg in summer and double the amount during rainy days.

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 7:53:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/lockdown-and-two-wet-spells-bring-salt-farmers-misery/article31457806.ece

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