Social forestry planters to go on the warpath

Subabul logs kept for loading in Ongole.Kommuri SrinivasKommuri Srinivas

Subabul logs kept for loading in Ongole.Kommuri SrinivasKommuri Srinivas  

The farmers who have been traditionally growing tobacco in the drought-prone Prakasam district took to social forestry plantations in a big way in the 1990s with the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development promoting them. But they are now in an unenvious position with paper mills forming a syndicate and driving down the prices. The State government, which brokered an agreement in 2015 between the farmers and paper mills for purchase of eucalyptus at Rs. 4,600 per quintal and subabul at Rs. 4,400 per quintal remained a mute spectator, says All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS)-led AP Eucalyptus and Subabul Growers Association State general secretary V. Hanuma Reddy.

''We will hold a State-level conference in Ongole on May 4 to chalk out a series of agitations seeking a fair deal for the planters,'' he adds.

Even the revised agreement brokered by the Prakasam district administration at the behest of Environment Minister Sidda Raghava Rao in September 2016 to purchase eucalyptus at Rs. 4,200 and subabul at Rs. 4,000 has not been honoured by the paper mills, alleges its district president P.V. Seshu.

Adverse effects

All was well till the system of effecting the sale through the Agriculture Market Committees (AMC) was in vogue. The trouble began for the planters after the paper bills appointed brokers and purchased logs bypassing the AMCs, he explains.

The alleged indifference of the State government will only result in loss of trees leading to import of costly wood pulp spending precious foreign exchange or felling of trees in the forests adversely affecting the environment in the process, explains another district leader G. Venkateswarlu.

The government should come to the rescue of the farmers by starting a paper mill on its own and create a healthy competition between public and private players in the field in the interest of farmers, opines Prakasam District Development Forum president Ch. Ranga Rao.

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