“Forget good prices, can the Centre’s new farm laws even help me sell my kinnow crop at a reasonable price?” asks Sudhir Himmatpura, who is selling at Rs 6-7 per kg against Rs 20 per kg last season.
Sudhir hails from Himmatpura village of Punjab’s Fazilka district and owns a five-acre orchard. “A small kinnow grower like me does not have the capacity to go to Delhi or UP to sell to get higher price,” he adds.
Small kinnow growers are dependent on local and outside traders to sell their kinnow crop but they have formed groups and are offering not more than this price, claiming that there is no demand in the market due to the pandemic and there are transportation issues due to the farmers’ dharna, says Sudhir.
“Both the excuses are untrue because the same kinnow is being sold at the rate of Rs 30-40 per kg in the market currently. I was at the dharna site at Singhu border for the past 10 days and I have not seen farmers block any goods truck there. Due to no MSP of kinnow and cartelisation formed by traders on one or other excuse, small farmers are left with no option but to sell at throw away prices,” he adds.
Commission agent at Abohar Mandi Vinod Gupta said, “Farmers traders are purchasing kinnow at Rs 10 but selling at Rs 70-80 per kg in Delhi market, who will minimise this farm gate to retail gate difference?”
Similar is the scene in Hoshiarpur district where till date, no traders from other states have reached to purchase from kinnow growers, due to which farmers are forced to sell to local traders who are not giving them more than Rs 8-9 per kg.
The other major horticulture crop in Punjab, potato, is facing the same fate as prices have been falling continuously for over a week now.
Why are the rates of these crops are falling this season while the rates of both were at the top the last season?
The answer is that both crops of Punjab have their major market in other states of the country and are dependent on traders for selling these as kinnow is not grown anywhere else in the country, as is the seed potato. Currently, there are only table potato crops in Punjab as seed potato is harvested in February and March.
The Covid factor is being blamed to claim that there is less demand of kinnow, that people do not have the buying capacity. And for potato, traders are saying that this time potato-growing states like UP, West Bengal have less demand from Punjab due to good crop there. Last season’s potato crop got damaged to a large extent in those states due to untimely rain.
“Demand for kinnow is always there. Traders are giving excuses just to keep the rate low because there is no MSP for it and farmers are at the mercy of the trader, who comes from West Bengal, UP, Karnataka, Maharashtra, south, Andra Pradesh, Gujarat etc. for purchasing kinnow from here and then supplies to Bhutan, Dubai, Bangladesh and Nepal. But this time traders have yet to come in big number and those who have already reached Punjab are not offering more than Rs 7 to 9 per kg,” said small-time kinnow grower Rupinder Singh from Modi Khera village in Fazilka.
“Even if small farmers pool in for sharing transportation charges so that they can sell their Kinnnow at Delhi or Haryana Mandis to get a higher price against the offer of traders, there is no surety of getting the money from traders of these mandis because 99 per cent of the time, small farmers were cheated outside the state,” said kinnow grower Rupinder Singh, who has not even received payment of his consignment to Tohana (Haryana) Mandi in the last season.
“Can government assure farmers’ payment if they sell in the mandis of their choice as per new law? I am a graduate and well aware, what about the semi-literate and uneducated farmers?” he added.
There must be MSP for horticultural crops and a check on traders who purchase at a throwaway price from us and sell at a higher price in Delhi, said Rupinder.
Similarly, the price of the potato crop had crashed from Rs 1,250 per quintal to Rs 500-800 per quintal with the beginning of table potato harvesting season, which started mid-December.
As of the total potato production, which is 2.8 million tonnes, 17 lakh tonnes is meant for seed including 4 lakh tonnes in Punjab and 13 lakh tonnes in other states and over 10 lakh tonnes is table potato, out of which nearly 25 per cent is harvested in December month and remaining in January, February and March while seed potato is harvested mainly in March.
Punjab supplies around 5 lakh tonnes of table potatoes to other states. And in last season its rate of table potato started from Rs 1,000 to 1100 per quintal which went to Rs 1,600 to 2,000 per quintal by March.
Around 56,000 hectares are under kinnow and Punjab is expecting to get around 13.50 lakh tonnes kinnow yield against 12.50 lakh tonnes last season.
Punjab Citrus Nodal Officer Balwinder Kumar, while speaking to The Indian Express, said, “Hardly any kinnow trader is coming to Punjab this time due to Covid factor and poor purchasing power of people as fruit is always a secondary item, first people have to have two meals. Due to the poor rate of kinnow this time as compared to last season, we have planned to send train bogies from Jalandhar and Abohar to West Bengal after having talks with traders there.”
“It is not viable if farmers sell kinnow and potato below Rs 20-22 to 11-12 per kg, respectively,’’ said a senior officer in the horticulture department, adding that the government should ensure this minimum rate.
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