Bhawanipatna: With no market where they can sell their produce for a reasonable price, farmers of Bhawanipatna are a harried lot.
Farmers say they suffer heavy losses as they are forced to sell their produce to middlemen at for Rs 350- 500 per quintal.
Farmers of the district have mainly depended on onion cultivation as their main cash crop for the last several years. They also cultivate paddy and maize as their cash crops, but a major part of their earning comes from growing onion.
After paddy is harvested, farmers cultivate onion on their farmland. In the harvesting season, traders and middlemen throng the place and visit farmers at their doorstep. In the absence of procurement centres and storage facility, farmers have no option but to sell their produce at whatever price the middlemen offer. While the traders get a good profit by selling the produce outside, the farmers are a distressed lot.
Apart from distress sale, what adds to the woes of farmers is crop loss due to hailstorm. Ready-to-harvest onions on hundreds acres of farmland are damaged whenever the fields are inundated by a heavy spell of rains.
The farmers further alleged no government or private entities provide storage facility for onions. While the horticulture department has constructed at least 304 units to store onion, most of these units are not working properly. The middlemen are taking the opportunity in such a situation, the farmers said.
Meanwhile, farmer outfits of the locality have threatened to commit suicide if the administration does not take immediate measures to check distress sale of onions.
According to sources in the agriculture department, this year the total land on which onion was cultivated is 1,338 hectares which is less than that of the previous year. Onion has been cultivated on 705 hectares of farmland in Bhawanipatna block, 670 hectares in Kesinga, 220 hectares in T Rampur, 56 hectares in Narla, 102 in M-Rampur, 200 hectares in Karlamunda and 104 hectares in Lanjigarh block. However, the production has drastically come down this year due to untimely rain, pest attack, cloudy weather and extreme heatwave. Last year, 6.5 lakh quintal onion was produced in the district.
Due to low prices, the onion farmers have lost interest in cultivating the crop. Farmer outfits leaders including Ugrasen Chhatara, Jaya Gahir and Bhairab Gahir alleged that the state government is not even bothered to fix a minimum support price for the produce.
They demanded that the state government and the district administration take immediate measures to buy onions from farmers at a proper price.
Deputy director of horticulture Sudhakar Sahu said the farmers of the district were provided with high-yielding onion seeds. That apart, 304 farmers were encouraged to set up storage units for onions. While each unit costs Rs 1.75 lakh, the farmers get 50 per cent of it as subsidy. He added that the farmers should not sell their produce in a hurry at such low prices and should wait till a minimum price is fixed.
He also admitted that crops on several hundred hectares have been damaged due to hailstorm. Measures were being taken to assess the loss, he added.