Kerala

Vegetable farmers in Idukki find the going tough

An uncultivated vegetable farm at Puthoor in Kanthallur.  

Even as the government announced steps to increase production of cool-season vegetables, farmers in villages such as Kanthallur and Vattavada in the district face the lack of proper marketing system to sell their produce. They claim that the prices they receive are often below one-third the market prices and that there is no proper procurement of vegetables by the Horticorp. Also, there is a lack of timely payment to the two societies to which the farmers sell their produce, they say.

Many farmers who had abandoned vegetable cultivation returned to it during the pandemic. There was a government scheme to uproot grandis cultivation and promote vegetable cultivation in the two villages. However, it appears that farmers prefer grandis cultivation as it is less risky.

Sojan P.G, secretary, Kanthallur cool-season vegetable cultivation farmers’ marketing society, said that Horticorp had not paid ₹11 lakh due for the three-year period till 2020. The society paid the money from its own funds to the farmers and had to stop procuring vegetables from the farmers, he said. There are nearly nearly 700 farmers under the society.

“What we demand is payment once in six months. Otherwise, farmers are forced to undersell the crops to middlemen from the Udumalpet market in Tamil Nadu,'' he said. Vegetables from the two villages are known for minimal use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers and hence have lower shelf life, he said.

Farmers have to sell the produce in two days of harvesting. Government agencies, including the VFPCK (Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council Kerala), are required to regularly procure the vegetables, he said.

According to K. Jayaprakash, president of Vattavada cool-season vegetable cultivation farmers' marketing society, the Horticop not only failed to procure vegetables but also made a long delay in the payment. Unless the payment was not made in time, the farmers had no option but to undersell the produce to middlemen, he said. There are nearly 1,100 farmers under the society.

He said that earlier, the farmers sold their produce to middlemen from Tamil Nadu and faced exploitation. Now, many of them have started selling their produce again to middlemen after Horticorp failed to procure the produce.

Eeswaran, a farmer from Kanthallur, said he had to abandon vegetables such as carrot and beet-root since he could not sell the produce in time. He claimed that farmers were were now forced to sell their produce at a paltry amount or leave it for decay. “It is not possible to continue with vegetable cultivation if they cannot sell the produce,” he said

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 6:37:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/vegetable-farmers-in-idukki-find-the-going-tough/article34328628.ece

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