Global Economy

Farmers left stranded with fruit and veggies lying in the fields

Pune|New Delhi: Farmers across the country are in panic because ripening fruit and vegetables will rot because mandi operations have almost stopped, labour cannot reach farms and orchards and due to transport bottlenecks.

Farmgate prices are plunging. Many private dairies have halved the price they pay farmers, while tomato growers in Maharashtra are not finding buyers for ₹2/kg or less. Farmer leaders said the situation is worse than demonetisation, which only delayed payments and did not damage the crop. But now, they said, losses will mount because it is harvest time for grapes, watermelons, bananas, muskmelon, chana, cotton, chillies, turmeric, jeera, coriander, onion and potato.

“The Centre is again and again saying that essential services will be provided. However states are not allowing farmers to harvest, go to market yards and preventing buyers to buy,” said P Chengal Reddy, chief adviser to Consortium of Indian Farmers’ Associations.

Rs 1,000-Crore Blow for Grape Growers

“The situation will be worse than the demonetisation days if the government doesn’t step in,” said Reddy.

Truckers said they are themselves facing a humanitarian crisis as lakhs of drivers are stranded across the country without access to food or money. “The number of distress calls I’m getting is increasing. The situation is aggravating with each passing day,” said Naveen Kumar Gupta, secretary general, All India Motor Transport Congress.

This in turns hurts farmers. Grape growers said the industry faces losses of Rs 1,000 crore as the harvest will continue for a few weeks and the main buyers are in big buyers far away. Even if interstate transport revives, urban demand is likely to be minimal during the 21-day lockdown, they said.

Many in Punjab say that green peas are ready to be harvested but they cannot reach the wholesale market in time. Other feared heavy losses in other vegetables.

“Vegetables have to harvested within 8 days once they are ready or they rot on the plant. Demand has also declined due to curfew. We are ready to set up direct linkages between farmers and housing societies in cities. A few farmers from Vengurla have 10,000 boxes, each containing a dozen of mangoes ready and want help for distribution,” Raju Shetty, leader of Swabhimani Shetkari Sangathana said.


Wheat farmers are also worried about the harvest that begins in April, and the ability of Food Corporation of India to procure the grain.

“As mandis are not working, wheat prices have fallen from Rs 2,200/quintal two weeks ago to about Rs 1,600/quintal today. The support price is Rs 1,840/quintal. The ripe wheat crop can be damaged due to the unseaonal rainfall,” said Dr Sunilam, president, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti from Madhya Pradesh.

K Gundaiah Naidu, a trader from Raiway Kodur, Kaddappa district said muskmelon grown on thousands of acres in the districts of Kadappa, Chittur and Ananthpur districts is rotting in the fields as there are no trucks available to transport the fruit to Mumbai, Gujarat, Delhi and Chennai.

“Green peas on thousands of acres in Punjab and Haryana has been harvest ready from last week. But police are not allowing the labour to work. Cauliflower, cabbage, chillies and spring onion grown for sending to mandis in other states will go waste. Farmer producer companies have been allowed to sell vegetables in local markets, which cannot consume the excess production,” said Punit Singh Thind, chairman, Northen Farmers Producer Companies Federation.


Prices of tomatoes in Narayangaon market in Maharashtra have crashed to Rs 2/kg at farmgate as there are no buyers. “After demonetisation, we could at least harvest and send the produce to the markets. The rates were low and the payments were delayed. But now, we are forced to let the vegetables, flowers rot on the plants. This means, the plants cannot bear new fruits and flowers and we will have to uproot the entire crop,” said Manoj Waman, who will lose Rs 1.60 lakh as he cannot now harvest about 2 tonnes of Chrusanthemum (shevanti) flowers.

Kisan Bochare from Junnar in Maharashtra fears losses of about Rs 8 lakh to Rs 10 lakh. “My watermelon grown on 5 acres is ripe and ready for market. If I cannot sell it, I will have to bear big loss.”

Yogendra Yadav of the Swaraj Abhiyhan and Jai Kisan Andolan said the pandemic could not have come at a worse time. Apart from it being the harvest time, the weather has also been bad.


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