Auction of agricultural produce at Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) in Halvad town of Morbi district was suspended for a day after farmers protested over what they termed as low prices of cotton and blocked State Highway 7 briefly on Wednesday.
As cotton started trading at around Rs 800 per 20 kg, farmers created a ruckus and forced the suspension of the auction. They demanded that the lowest price for cotton should be set at Rs 1000 per 20 kg. Incensed farmers later assembled on State Highway 7 opposite the gate of the APMC and blocked the highway. But soon police rushed to the spot and persuaded farmers to allow vehicular movement on the highway which connects Viramgam in Ahmedabad taluka to Maliya in Morbi district. The farmers budged and again regrouped inside the APMC. Eventually, Ranchhod Patel, chairman of the APMC, ordered suspension of auction for a day and pacified the agriculturalists.
“The recent spell of rain has damaged cotton. It has also led to high content of moisture in kapas (raw, unginned seed-cotton). Therefore, prices have fallen. Before the rains, farmers were getting average Rs 1,200 to Rs 1,300 per 20 kg. But now the prices have dropped. An APMC cannot set the price of a commodity. Therefore, we suggested that the auction be suspended for a day. Farmers agreed. We also told farmers that they were free not to sell their cotton and wait for good prices and that APMC will not charge them anything for keeping their cotton on APMC premises during this period,” Patel told The Indian Express.
Halvad is a major cotton producing area of Saurashtra and Halvad APMC is one of the biggest cotton trading centres in Gujarat. Though rainfall has been deficient this monsoon in this area, farmers are likely to have good harvest thanks to Morbi, Dhrangadhra and Maliya branch canals of Narmada project and enough groundwater resources. Gujarat accounts for almost one-third of total cotton production in the country and within the state, majority of the natural fiber is produced in Saurashtra region.
Halvad APMC secretary Ramesh Fultariya said the prices of cotton have been sliding down for the last three weeks. “When the arrival of new cotton began in the last week of September, average prices were ruling between Rs 1050 to Rs 1,150. Then, they came down and hovered between Rs 950 and Rs 1050. Two days ago, they further slipped into the range of Rs 900 to Rs 1000. Today, Rs 800 was offered for the cotton damaged by rain. This irked farmers”, said Fultariya.
The secretary added that as the APMC had remained closed for two days due to holidays, there was increase in arrival also. “The average arrival of cotton so far has been around 8,000 quintals. But due to holidays, today, there was arrival of 12,000 quintals. This also affected the prices partially,” he said.
Fultariya said that auction of groundnut, another crop which has started arriving in the APMC was also suspended.