Karnataka

Coronavirus | Withered roses litter Karnataka fields

Farmers in Devanahalli taluk on the outskirts of Bengaluru used to export flowers to Dubai.   | Photo Credit: Sudhakara Jain

Less than six months ago, in November 2019, around 1.45 tonnes of marigold flowers grown on the outskirts of Bengaluru and surrounding districts were flown to the UAE as part of the Dubai Festival City event. Now, the flower farms near Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) in Anneshwara gram panchayat limits are a picture of neglect. The multi-coloured roses, crossandras and golden marigolds that blossomed in the open fields are now infested with pests.

The floriculture sector and the rose industry that Bengaluru is famous for are wilting as the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, which will complete 40 days on May 3, have wreaked havoc. In the absence of a market, many farmers on the outskirts of Bengaluru are destroying thousands of rose plants.

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Guru Kumar, a farmer at Bychapura village in Devanahalli taluk, has destroyed more than 4,000 paneer rose plants. “In the one decade since I entered the floriculture business, I have never faced anything like this. It requires at least ₹8,000 to ₹10,000 to spray pesticides per week. The daily wage paid to a labourer to pluck flowers is ₹500. How can I bear these expenses without any revenue source? I have destroyed all the plants.”

Unable to bear the maintenance cost, some farmers have discontinued the weekly spraying of pesticides and the harvesting of flowers. In many places, farmers are dumping piles of flowers.

Ramanna, who grows cut roses in Anneshwara gram panchayat limits, said, “This is the season when there is demand for cut roses, not only in Bengaluru, but also in the neighbouring States. Every day, I used to sell more than 100 bunches. I have not been plucking flowers for the past two weeks. My roses are dying in the heat.”

The stories of loss barely change from taluk to taluk. Manjunath, a villager at Kambahalli in Hoskote, said, “Like every year, we expected a good market for flowers during Ugadi. But that did not happen. I have dumped all my button roses at a corner of my field.” He scrolled through his phone to show this reporter images of mounds of discarded roses.

Across Karnataka, floriculture farming is spread over 11,685 hectares of land, including 659 hectares of polyhouse farming.

Arun Kumar and his father Anjanappa, who have polyhouses near the KIA, have discontinued maintenance work. “We grow gerbera and other types of ornamental flowers in the polyhouse. Owing to the lockdown, weddings and other functions are not happening, and thus there is no market for these flowers,” said Mr. Anjanappa.

G.M. Diwakar, a floriculture farmer and trader near Sarjapur, pointed out that it was not just farmers who were suffering, but also labourers and others dependent on them. “The lockdown has destroyed the livelihood of thousands of women who make garlands after buying loose flowers from K.R. Market. They have been living without any source of income for a month.” Mr. Diwakar said. He urged the State government to relax the rules at least at the local level to sell flowers.

Report soon

Rajendra Kumar Kataria, Secretary, Agriculture, Horticulture and Sericulture, told The Hindu that the government was assessing the situation on the ground and a report would be submitted to decide on further action.

A senior official from the Horticulture Department said, “We have been advising farmers to retain plants by taking up minimal maintenance work, including reducing pesticide-spraying sessions, so that they continue to rely on the existing plants for revenue sources after the lockdown is lifted.”

Agriculture Minister B.C. Patil had said that floriculture farmers in Bengaluru Urban district alone had suffered losses running up yo around ₹250 crore after lockdown was imposed. The State government is still buying time to compensate floriculture farmers.

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Printable version | Apr 21, 2021 4:47:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/hopes-of-floriculture-farmers-wither-away-during-lockdown-in-karnataka/article31399796.ece

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