Exactly five years after a police firing claimed the lives of six garlic farmers in Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur who were protesting demanding minimum support price for their produce, farmers in the districts bordering Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are up in arms against the State and Union governments for price as low as ₹2 for a kilogram of garlic.
They are from areas such as Kota, Ratlam, Mandsaur, Jhalawar, Baran, Neemuch and Ujjain, known as the “garlic belt” of the country. The area contributes almost 50% of the country’s total garlic production. The farmers are demanding the Centre and the States to immediately announce a market intervention scheme and start procuring garlic to help them. They have also decided to launch joint agitations under the banner of Samyukt Kisan Morcha.
What has added to their worry is that purchase by food processing industries have come down as their products such as garlic powder, garlic paste and garlic sauce have not moved much in the last two years due to low demand and consumption.
The Indian Council of Agriculture Research has taken cognisance of the low yield in garlic. “The main reason for the yield is virus load. We have recommended that the seed production cycle should be changed and fresh seeds from hilly areas like Ooty and Himachal Pradesh should be considered. Ooty has the best quality of seeds. If the same garlic is continuously grown, it affects the productivity. Many farmers have replaced the seeds. We are working to remove these viruses,” said Dr. Major Singh, director of ICAR Directorate of Onion and Garlic Research, Pune.
Mahesh Khandelwal, General Secretary of Kota Grain and Seeds Merchant Association said the traders too suffered huge losses due to the situation. “We had urged the Centre and State governments to start procurement. The market intervention scheme is approved by the Centre, but the State government hasn’t started procurement. More than one lakh metric tonne of garlic was to be procured by these markets, but nothing has happened yet,” Mr.Khandelwal said. He added that food processing industries used to procure almost the entire “lottery quality” (small garlics) from the Kota market. “The export has also come down,” he added.
According to Rajasthan Agriculture Department, garlic is cultivated in about 1.15 lakh hectares of Kota Division of Rajasthan this year. Farmers say that in one hectare, the average minimum production is 50 quintals.
“Now the rate is ₹2 to ₹ 15 for a kilogram of garlic depending on the quality. Almost 25% of the total production is of ‘lottery quality’ every year. This year, it has gone up to 50% due to the early summer and heat wave,” said All India Kisan Sabha leader Dulichand Borda. Himself a garlic farmer, Mr. Borda said farmers have suffered huge losses this time.
“We got ₹50 for a kilogram of good quality garlic in the last season and ₹7 to ₹8 for a kilogram of lottery quality of garlic. The production was also slightly better last year than this year. 65 quintals was the average production last time and lottery quality was also less,” he added.
The production cost is about ₹ 2.5 lakh per hectare. After the Mandsaur firings, the Centre and both the State governments had announced a market intervention scheme with a price of ₹ 3,250 for a quintal of garlic in 2018. “Now after four years, the input cost has increased at least 50% due to diesel, fertilizer and pesticide prices hike. The Centre is learnt to have approved the scheme at a rate of ₹2,957 per quintal, but the procurement hasn’t started yet as the State government is yet to receive any proper order from the Centre. The harvest is more or less over. There are no guidelines so far,” said Mahesh Vyas, president of Rashtriya Kisan Mazdur Mahasangh, the organisation that led the farmers’ agitation in 2017 said.
Vyas and Borda have taken up the matter with the respective State governments and with Kota MP and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla. “They have given all assurances, but procurement hasn’t started,” Mr. Borda said.
Samyukt Kisan Morcha leader Shivkumar Kakkaji said the the main issue is that garlic does not have a minimum support price. “The government should consider a support price mechanism for essential vegetables such as potatoes, onions and garlic. Onion farmers in the area are also forced to sell their produce at a rate of ₹2 to ₹ 5,” Mr. Kakkaji said.
Mr. Vyas added that farmers are forced to destroy garlic as they are unable to meet even the transportation charges to the market. “In Malwa region, the production has decreased. Forget the input cost, even the harvesting cost could not be managed. I have one hectare garlic this time. Last year I had about two hectares and I reduced cultivation this year as production decreased. Last year, I got 90 quintal per hectare. Now it is about 55 quintals in one hectare. 2018 market intervention scheme didn’t help the farmers here,” Mr. Vyas, who recently met Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan on the issue, said.