Andhra Pradesh

Tobacco growers threaten to stall auctions

Economic downturn has adversely affected the trade of export-oriented tobacco.

Economic downturn has adversely affected the trade of export-oriented tobacco.   | Photo Credit: Kommuri Srinivas

Traders have formed into a syndicate to deny us a fair price, they allege

Upset over falling prices, farmers in the traditional tobacco growing areas have threatened to stall auctions from next week demanding intervention by the Union and State governments.

The lockdown-hit farmers from different auction platforms, who took stock of the situation, urged Prakasam district Collector P. Bhaskar to take up their cause at a meeting on Tuesday.

Traders warned

The Collector asked the traders to bail out the farmers who would otherwise lose interest in growing the commercial crop. Action would be taken against those traders not entering the market after giving indent, he made it clear.

The farmers had lost about two months of precious time during the peak of the marketing season, which coincided with lockdown.

There had been no improvement in the market condition even after the farmers in the D.C. Palli area made a bonfire of a few bales of tobacco and resorted to road blockade stir last month, they lamented.

“We were hoping for revival of the market when it reopened outside the containment zones. But traders have formed themselves into a syndicate to deny them a fair price for their produce, contending that they have not yet got firm orders from overseas buyers,” complained a group of farmers from the Southern Black Soil (SBS) region.

“We will have no option but to press for crop holiday during the next cropping season if the Tobacco Board does not come to our rescue,” they made it clear.

There has been a fall of about 30% over the rates prevailing before the lockdown for the export-oriented crop.

“We will have no option but to stall the auctions if the lacklustre trading continues during unlock 1.0 too,” said YSRCP farmers’ wing district president Mareddy Subba Reddy.

“Each farmer will be forced to incur a loss of ₹3 lakh per barn if the depressed market condition continues,” said a farmer leader from Ongole II auction platform V.V. Prasad.

“The unseasonal rains in January had affected productivity as also the quality of the produce, with low-grade accounting for about 50% of the crop,” said SBS Farmers’ Association president P. Narasimha Rao.

Pressing for punitive action against the traders not entering the market after giving indent at the time of fixing the crop size, former Tobacco Board member P. Bhadri Reddy said it had become a habit for the traders to shy away from the market under one pretext or the other at the time of auctions. Now, coronavirus-induced economic slowdown was cited for bringing down the prices.

‘No takers’

“There are no takers for the low-grade varieties. The medium grades attract buyers at about ₹110 to ₹120 per kg,” explained a farmer leader, B. Ramanjaneyulu. The rejection rate was about 20%, he lamented.

The Tobacco Board should ensure that traders purchased low-grade varieties at a price not less than ₹100 per kg. It should ensure at least ₹140 per kg for medium grade varieties, said a farmer leader from Vellampalli, Abhuri Seshagiri Rao.

Though the e-auctions commenced on a promising note in the Southern Light Soil Auction platforms (SLS) on February 17, the prices went southwards when the markets were reopened after relaxation of lockdown, they explained. Only about 20% of the estimated crop of more than 85 million kg in the SBS and SLS auction platforms had been marketed so far.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 4:21:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/tobacco-growers-threaten-to-stall-auctions/article31734308.ece

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