Bhawanipatna: Distress sale seems to have become a part of life for Kalahandi farmers. After paddy, maize and cotton farmers, it is now the turn of onion growers.
Though it is commonly believed that the market price of onion often bring tears in the eyes of customers, it is reverse in the case of onion growers of Kalahandi district, some affected farmers alleged.
Apart from paddy, farmers make a quick buck from cultivating cotton, maize and onion. For the last few years they have adopted onion as a major cash crop in the district. However, it has become a practice for them to sell the produce at throwaway prices be it paddy, maize, cotton or onion.
Neither the administration nor the local representatives show concern to address the issue, farmers alleged. Cashing in on the opportunity, brokers of other districts and states collect onion at prices between Rs 350 and Rs 500 a quintal. In the absence of proper storage facility, they have no option but to sell their produce to the brokers at any price, farmers said.
“The unseasonal rain and thunder storm have not helped their cause either. Onion across hundreds of acres is rotting after the field got inundated by rain,” a Ugrasen Chhatar of Borda village under Sadar block said.
Most of the farmers will have no option but to end lives if the distress sale continues, said Jay Gahir, another farmer.
According to reports, farmers of 11 blocks of the district raised onion in nearly 4,047 hectares against a government target of 5,205 hectare this year. Despite a bumper 6.50 lakh quintals of production in the district, there is a steady decline in the price of onion. The growers attributed the price fall to the failure of the regulated market committee to create a proper market for the crop.
“In the absence of godown facility, farmers had left their crops on the farmland to dry. However, quintals of onion have perished due to untimely rain,” Murali Sahoo of Dumaria village said.
“We sell onion at Rs 3 to Rs 5 per kg after harvest but ironically buy them like others from the market at Rs 20 to Rs 25,” said onion farmer Sukanta Kumar Pradhan of Dharmagarh.
The distress sale of onion can be checked by the opening of procurement centres which happens in the case of paddy and cotton, some farmers said. They demanded that the administration, RMC, agriculture and horticulture department procure the balance onion left with farmers on a war-footing.
When contacted, deputy director Sudhakar Sahoo of horticulture department said 304 onion farmers of the district were encouraged to set up preservation centres with a budget of Rs 1.75lakh for each project. The department has also provided them with 50 per cent subsidy on the project and other farmers should use these centres to store their produce instead of selling them in a hurry, Sahoo added.
However, the farmers said though the department took measures to set up such storage units like those in Nashik, most of the houses here are not good enough to preserve the crop for long. Therefore, it is better to sell the crop soon after harvest than to see it perishing in ill-equipped storage houses, farmers said. PNN