Fifty two-year-old Jayesh Patel from Virodh village in Vadodara district has visited the Sayajipura APMC market to sell his vegetable produce twice in the last 10 days since the lockdown was announced in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.
On his first visit, he had managed to sell 1,000 kg eggplants but for a meagre Rs. 1 per kg.
The second time, Patel left all his produce at the APMC and returned with no profit.
“Ideally the eggplants should fetch us Rs. 160-200 for a bag of 20 kgs. But, at present, we are hardly managing Rs. 40 for 25 kg now. This does not even cover our transport expenses let alone farm labour and packaging cost. In one trip to the market, I manage to take around 20 bags full of eggplants, each weighing 25 kg. For this quantity of harvest, I have to hire at least two farm labourers and then package the eggplants which costs me around Rs. 1000-1200. But from the market I will get only Rs. 800. How do I cover the remaining Rs. 400?,” asks Jayesh.
His farm still has around 3,000 kg of eggplants which are likely to rot.
In Kotila village, Dinesh Patel has not been able to hire farm labourers and his nearly three-acre land cultivated with bottle gourd, cauliflower and onions is yet to be harvested.
“They will eventually start to rot. I am ready to give them away for free. But bottle gourds and cauliflowers are perishable, who will buy such huge quantities from me? Last week I had hired farm labourers but I could only pay them Rs. 50. The bottle gourds which would otherwise fetch me Rs. 20 per kg are now hardly fetching me Rs. 2. A few groups have approached us but they pay only pay for the labour cost and the transportation cost is borne by them. It is a no profit-no loss deal for us,” Dinesh says.
As per the official government website maintaining records of mandis across the country, prior to the lockdown around 11-16 tonnes of brinjals arrived at the Vadodara APMCs which reduced to 6-7 tonnes after the lockdown. Similarly cauliflower arrivals stood at 80-85 tonnes which reduced to 50 tonnes and onions reduced from 800 tonnes to 500 tonnes.
The plight of Dinesh and Jayesh resonates across vegetable farms in Vadodara stemming from the disruption of the agricultural supply chain after the lockdown was imposed on March 25.
The lockdown has not only prompted an exodus of migrant workers, depriving farmers of labour, but has also disrupted transport to an extent.
As per the weekly sowing report of 2019, Vadodara has the maximum area covered for vegetables in the state, with Padra taluka in Vadodara often touted as the “vegetable bowl” of the state.
Bankim Patel who owns two shops at the Sayajipura APMC market says, “The number of traders have reduced and those who come are not ready to pay good prices because the market has become localised now. The farmers also tend to sell their produce at whatever prices are pitched. It is a loss for all of them. Many traders are also scared to export vegetables to other states fearing that the trucks might get stuck somewhere due to the lockdown.”
Adding to their woes, the APMC markets for vegetables have now been functional at odd hours. While grain APMCs across the state are closed, vegetable APMCs were allowed to function with modified timings. The Sayajipura APMC market opens at 3 am and closed by 9 am. The Padra APMC market opens at 12 am and closes by 3 am.
“We are also scared because there are so many people at a place which also puts all of us at a risk. We are unable to fetch any prices which makes the whole process riskier, tedious and also non-profitable. Its better to let the produce rot than continue with this,” says Laxman Jadav (42), a farmer from Khanderaopura village.
“I had spinach, fenugreek, tomatoes, garlic and onion. Almost all the farmers in my village are facing the same issues so we cannot even sell our produce within the village. The nearby villages are also not taking vegetable produce from outside. So we have no other option but to let the produce rot,” Jadav added.
A vegetable trader, Vasudev Patel also attributes this price drop to reducing demands as restaurants and other allied industries have come to a halt. “We are trying to cater to the needs of the domestic customers. The trucks by VMC ferrying around wards has also eased the burden as vegetables are not left to perish at the mandi,” Vasudev said.
Jamalpur vegetable APMC mandi to shift on the outskirts
One of the largest vegetable mandi in Ahmedabad, the Jamalpur APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) will be shifted to the Pandit Deendayal APMC Grain Market in Jetalpur on the Narol-Mumbai highway on Sunday night till further orders.
The decision has been taken due to paucity of space at the existing Jamalpur APMC Mandi where maintaining social distancing to contain COVID-19 was not possible. Also, the shift is aimed at taking it from the heart of city to the outskirts facilitating movement of vehicles, traders and farmers.
“From the existing 16,000 square yard area we will now have a huge area of 1,00,000 square yard at the Jetalpur APMC grain mandi. We have already started informing our traders from Friday who are communicating the same to the farmers,” said Jamalpur APMC vegetable mandi secretary Deepakbhai Patel. The Jamalpur APMC vegetable mandi trades vegetables anywhere between 13,000 and 18,000 quintal everyday.
However, due to the lockdown situation, the trading has reduced but at the same time the demand has also gone down, Patel said. “With the closing down of hotel and restaurant industry, the consumption has also reduced,” he said.
On the availability of vegetables amid lockdown, he added that the supply that was affected for a couple of initial days as people hoarded fearing non-availability is now smooth these days. (ENS)
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