Distressed vegetable farmers across Jharkhand have been forced to dump their produce due to the steep fall in wholesale prices, apparently due to bumper crop this season.
Haripal Bhagat (48), a tomato farmer from Huddu village in Lohardaga district, dumped three quintals of the vegetable after he was forced to sell the produce at Rs 50 per quintal.
Bhagat rued that he had spent Rs 20 on transportation and Rs 20 on meals, but the poor return on the vegetable was only around 10% of the production cost.
“I decided to dump the production to avoid transportation and other costs,” he said.
Bhagat is not alone. Farmers of Bhandra, Kero, Kuru and Senha blocks of Lohardaga district and in Ranchi and other parts of the country— Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh—have been dumping their tomatoes, onions and French beans.
Huge dumps of vegetables were seen along Ranchi-Tata highway (NH-33) near Bhuinyadih vegetable market in Ranchi’s Tamar block after having been forced to sell their produce at throwaway prices because of bumper crop and cash crunch.
The National Institution for Transforming India (Niti) Aayog in a recent paper admitted to the slump in vegetable prices, but attributed it to the bumper crop and not demonetisation of Rs 500/1000 notes.
“We are in catch-22 situation. Traders are not buying our produce. We neither able to sell the vegetable nor to take it at home,” Jaipal Singh Munda, a tomato farmer, said.
Jagdish Mahato, a trader at Bhuinyadih wholesale market, said, “Tomatoes and French beans are being sold at Rs 1-2 a kg in the market while cauliflower is Rs 5 a piece for last few days.”
However, the price of tomato is Rs 6-10 a kg, French beans and cauliflower Rs 10 in vegetable markets in Ranchi city.
With good monsoon this year, farmers have produced bumper crops in the country.
“Traders’ purchasing power has declined after demonetisation. They have restricted their orders. West Bengal traders are not coming to buy vegetables from Jharkhand at this time,” said Nakul Mahato, a vegetable grower from Ranchi’s Pithoria area, who also sells vegetables to West Bengal.
State horticulture director Rajiv Kumar said Jharkhand recorded bumper crops this year. “So, it is natural the demand will fall. We are trying to increase the demand through advertising significance of tomato on health.”
He said residents would be requested to buy tomato and store them as ketchup.
“Next year onwards, vegetable route will also be defined where farmers will be requested to produce different vegetables so that farmers do not see such situation,” he said.
Jharkhand is a known for surplus vegetable production. According to Jharkhand state horticulture mission (JSHM), the state produces around 38 lakh metric tonne vegetables annually against a requirement of 30 lakh metric tonne. The state exports around one million tonne vegetables to other states every year.