BHAWANIPATNA: Continuous apathy of the State government to creating a much-needed value chain has dashed the hopes and aspirations of the farmers of Thuamul Rampur and Lanjigarh for reaping higher returns from vegetable farming and horticulture activities.
The hilly tracks of Thuamul Rampur and Lanjigarh blocks are the most suitable areas for cultivation of fruits and vegetables but the farmers have failed to reap benefits in the absence of cold storage facility and market linkage.
In 2013, the local administration decided to set up a cold chain system in these two blocks with the help of funds under Special Central Assistance and National Horticulture Mission for providing cold storage and preservation infrastructure facilities to farmers.
A year later, a cold storage of 10 MT capacity was opened in Thuamul Rampur and farmers hoped that this would address the problem of distress sale. The Integrated Tribal Development Authority (ITDA) handed over the cold storage to a cooperative society in the block for day to day management. After functioning for some years, the unit went defunct due to lack of maintenance and no steps have been taken so far to repair it.
Another cold storage was set up in Biswanathpur under Lanjigarh block few years later but met the same fate too.
Under the cold chain programme, a refrigerator van of six MT capacity was also procured by ITDA in 2014 to transport fruits and vegetables from villages under Thuamul Rampur block to markets in Bhawanipatna town. Both Horticulture wing of Agriculture Department and ITDA spent `34 lakh to procure the van that remained in operation for one year. A year later, the van developed snags and has since been lying in the garage of ITDA office in Bhawanipatna.
In the absence of market linkage, farmers are forced to sell their produce at throwaway prices to wholesalers, who trade them at higher rates in the open market.
Chairman of District Planning Board and MLA Balabhadra Majhi said government is keen on providing livelihood support to tribal farmers and steps will be taken for revival of the cold storage units and the refrigerator van.
ITDA Project Director, Biranchi Narayan Das said they have asked the cooperative society to repair the defunct cold storages and two outlets will be opened by ITDA soon at Bhawanipatna to sell fruits grown by tribal farmers of both the blocks.