Lockdown severely impacts banana farmers

Prices have nosedived as there are no takers for the produce, they say

April 03, 2020 08:46 pm | Updated April 06, 2020 09:16 am IST - VIJAYAWADA

 An agriculture labourer loading bunches of bananas into a truck at Mallempalli village in Guntur district.

An agriculture labourer loading bunches of bananas into a truck at Mallempalli village in Guntur district.

Banana farmers in the State are a worried lot because of the steep fall in the price of the produce. The crop is ready for harvest, but there are no takers even for half the price that prevailed a fortnight ago. With no farm workers turning up in the backdrop of COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown that followed, the farmers are keeping their fingers crossed.

Estimated yield

Banana is one of the major horticulture crops in the State. Different varieties of banana are cultivated in an extent of 1,04,953 hectares across the State. The yield is estimated to be 62,97,180 tonnes this year. Kadapa, Anantapur, East and West Godavari districts top the list with the highest area under cultivation.

After the announcement of lockdown, most of the retail outlets have also been closed. As a result, there are no takers for banana.

“Traders are not coming forward on the pretext that there is no market for the produce,” bemoans Bandireddi Damodar Reddy, a farmer, at Mallempudi village of Guntur district.

“I cultivated banana in five acres. I have been able to harvest the crop in two acres. I am worried about the remaining crop as it is becoming a Herculean task to find labourers, traders, and means to transport the produce,” says Uyyur Sivarama Reddy, another farmer. “I will be incurring a loss of not less than ₹1 lakh per acre, which includes tenancy,” he laments.

‘FPOs back out’

As per sources, the Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) had procured 22,000 tonnes so far. Of this, while 18,500 tonnes had been exported, the remaining was sold in the domestic market. The average price (per tonne) offered to the farmers was between ₹10,000 and ₹17,000.

After the lockdown, the FPOs were not picking up the harvest from the fields on the pretext that the retail outlets such as Reliance, Big Basket, Cash and Carry, and super bazaars had either closed their operations or scaled them down. This in turn hit the supply chain and the traders were not willing to purchase from the farmers.

“As a result, the farmers are getting ₹3,000 to ₹4,000 per tonne, which is a huge loss,” says a senior official.

Farmers such as A. Surra Reddy are of the opinion that the government should allow them to take up agricultural operations at least till noon and sell the produce in the local market. “Due to lockdown, workers too are not turning up,” he says.

‘Control rooms set up’

Horticulture Commissioner Chiranjiv Choudary says, “The government has set up a control room for essential commodities. Horticulture officials will visit the district-level control rooms. The government is in talks with other States to ensure hassle-free movement of commodities. Traders’ meeting is also being organised. We are in talks with the transporters too. Banana (export quality) is being exported from Anantapur and Kadapa districts. Varieties such as ‘Chakkerakeli’ have a demand in the local market.”

“The situation has eased up to a large extent, but the farmers are not getting the expected rate,” he adds.

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