Why farmers in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are burning their chilli crop

Last year, as prices of dry chilli hit Rs 12,000 per quintal, lakhs of farmers in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh sowed the crop hoping for good returns this year.

Written by Sreenivas Janyala | Hyderabad | Published:May 4, 2017 12:21 am
Hyderabad: Police detain chilli farmers, who were staging a protest against various issues, including fall in prices of the crop, at the T S Agriculture Commissionerate in Hyderabad on Wednesday. PTI Photo

The Centre on Wednesday announced it would procure 1.22 lakh tonnes of red chilli from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana under the Market Intervention Scheme during the 2017 season to make up for losses resulting from an extraordinary fall in the prices of the crop. Distressed farmers have been burning heaps of their chilli crop, upset at the depression in prices that have followed massive overproduction.

PRICES

Last year, as prices of dry chilli hit Rs 12,000 per quintal, lakhs of farmers in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh sowed the crop hoping for good returns this year. Production increased by 14% in Telangana and 25% in Andhra Pradesh. In Telangana, against an average of 2 lakh metric tonnes every year, nearly 7 lakh MT of chilli has been produced in 2016-17. In Andhra, production increased from 7.93 lakh MT last year to 9.22 lakh MT this year. As bags of chilli began to cause a massive glut in market yards in the first week of April, prices crashed by 50%. With prices still between Rs 5,000 and Rs 6,000 per quintal around April 25, frustrated farmers who had been holding on in the hope of getting Rs 10,000-12,000 per quintal, also started to sell.

ANGER

Last Friday, as the Khammam Market Yard opened after 2 consecutive local holidays, stock that is usually around 60,000 bags, had swollen to nearly 2 lakh bags. As the auction began, there were no takers at even Rs 5,000 per quintal — the chairman and secretary then fixed prices at between Rs 3,000 and Rs 4,000 per quintal, depending on the variety of the chilli. Infuriated chilli farmers went on the rampage, vandalising the offices of the chairman and secretary, and setting furniture on fire. They accused officials of being hand-in-glove with commission agents to keep prices low.

On Monday, the protests (above) spread to Warangal. In Guntur, the biggest chilli market, farmers blocked NH 16 and set fire to heaps of the crop, demanding government intervention with a support price. The Opposition YSR Congress Party chief Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy went on a hunger strike, demanding compensation for farmers.

RESPONSE

The TRS and TDP governments in Telangana and Andhra respectively are under fire from Opposition parties for not helping the farmers who say they won’t even get their investment back. Fearing an ugly confrontation with the Congress, the TRS did not allow a debate on chilli prices in the special session of the Legislative Assembly held on Sunday to approve the Telangana Land Bill.

AP has announced financial support of Rs 1,500 for every quintal over and above the price that the farmer gets, which would be transferred directly to his account, but has capped the support at 20 quintals per farmer.

Officials say around 4 lakh farmers in the two states are affected. The states made a representation to the Centre, seeking help and funds to offer a support price to the farmers. Telangana’s Irrigation and Marketing Minister T Harish Rao wrote to Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh seeking 50% central assistance under Market Intervention Scheme. Singh took up the matter with senior minister M Venkaiah Naidu, leading to Wednesday’s intervention. Earlier, Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya had met Naidu along with leaders and public representatives from the states.

With inputs from PTI

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  1. V
    Vasudevan Venugopal
    May 4, 2017 at 10:31 pm
    Chillies and tomatoes are extremely price sensitive agricultural commodities. Their farm-gate prices are not even half of their market price. Glut in their production invariably leads to destruction of the produce in the farm itself. Farmers do not save for the rainy day. And it compounds their woes. Farmers should be educated in extraction of Capsaicin from chillies, a high value product, for the international market. Tomato farmers should be trained in sun drying tomatoes as well making ketchups which would have longer shelf life and fetch greater price in the markets worldwide. Proper industrial base should be created area wise. There has to be proper plan and guidance which is lacking. The political system should work towards that end instead of parti ting in "andolan" at the last moment.
    Reply
  2. S
    s
    May 4, 2017 at 7:20 pm
    Chiily is a cash crop just as rubber , coconut or areca and the price is related to the demand whiich again is related to the output. Farmers are silly to demand govt intervention when the prives crash. Last year when chilly was sellinh at rs 12000 per quintal did the farmers clamour for intervention? When they generate profits they spend lavishly and greed makes them think of a repeat windfall. Diversification of crops year upon year can somewhat avoid this problem of over supply and also contribute tò better farm practice. Instead of burning crops why cannot they covert into powder form which can be stored better and generate value addition?
    Reply
  3. V
    vish
    May 4, 2017 at 5:32 pm
    Why our political parties won't come together , sit and discuss to find a solution instead coming on street and start a fight .
    Reply