AMARJEET SINGH Tikka, a farmer with over 200 acres of land in Abul Khurana village of Muktsar district, has kinnow as his major crop. This year, Amarjeet is feeling the heat despite increase in yield due to a sharp drop in prices. While production is up from 9 lakh MT (from 56,000 hectares) last year to 12 lakh MT this year (from 58,000 hectares), the average price of kinnow for farmers is in the range of Rs 6-8 per kg, while it was Rs18-20 per kg last year.
Further this year, contractors, who come to the Punjab to purchase the fruit, are not coming in large numbers. While this was admitted by Punjab government too, on Sunday, Ashwani Sharma, state BJP chief, during his visit in Ludhiana stated, “Farmers of Abohar and Fazilka are really upset, their kinnow is being sold at Rs 5 a kg. Because of this aandolan, contractors are not coming to Punjab as many roads around the national capital have been blocked. So these farmers are feeling the heat of this aandolan. Are these not farmers? A farmer is causing harm to another farmer and the state government is supporting this aandolan when most demands have been met.”
Tikka said, “Yes, this year contractors are coming in less number but it has nothing to do with our protest against farm laws. Entire farming community is one as of now. BJP’s statements show that they just want to create a divide among us. As kinnow’s production is more, likewise orange’s production is also more this year and hence contractors are busy in orange markets i.e in Maharashtra and MP. Even prices of orange have also crashed as trader always wants to exploit the farmer. We horticulture farmers were never covered under MSP and we always had been selling our produce not only in India but also abroad, hence for us many theoretical declarations of PM are irrelevant. Price fluctuation needs reforms, but for that you don’t need farm laws which have provisions of doing contract farming which hardly any government says. We are with farmers, we are regularly sending ration, funds to protesting farmers and will always remain united in this cause. Let BJP cook as many stories as it wants.”
Ajay Saharan, a farmer who has kinnow orchards in 70 acres of land in Ramgarh village of Abohar constituency of Fazilka district of Punjab, said,”This rumour is being created that roads are blocked, while fruit is going to Azadpur mandi on a daily basis, fruit is also going to UP, Chennai, Bangalore as well but the only thing is that we are being given less rate. Beopari gave me in the range of Rs 6-7 a kg while in Khan Market of Delhi, kinnow is available at Rs 130 a kg. This is the whole dilemma of a farmer. Contractor is purchasing less and also is offering less rate. They are giving less rate to orange growing farmers too. Covid also seems to be another spoilsport, and then production is more but consumption is less as weddings are small gatherings, parties are very less in number and people hardly eat out. Hence, spreading a wrong message against our farmers is not justified.”
Rajinder Singh from village Dharangwala of Balluana constituency of Fazilka district said, “After doing all the hard work, we expect at least Rs 15 plus a kg for our crop. But this year it is not more than Rs 10 a kg for superior quality as well. We are sending kinnow to farmers sitting at Delhi border as sewa and they are not stopping anything for going towards Azadpur mandi. It is wrong propaganda. In fact it is exploitation by contractors who are giving less rate to farmers in the name of aandolan. Fruits which have to go to South states have nothing to do with protest, even their rates are less. Farmer is always at a receiving end and now these farm laws have further troubled us, whether we don’t come under MSP but still we are aware of pitfalls of contract farming.”
Gurdev Singh, farmer in Daulatpura village of Abohar, added, “I am not even able to meet up my expenses. Rs 6 per kg is no rate for my crop.”
Sanjeev Charaya, a wholesale fruit seller from Abohar, said, “Kinnow is not going to Dubai and Bangladesh as well till now, moreover marriages are less in number and as of now markets in Jharkhand, Kerala, West Bengal, Karnataka are preferring orange, hence this slash in price was obvious. After purchasing from farmers, we are selling in the range of 8-10 a kg to other markets.”
Shailendar Kaur, Director, Horticulture, Punjab, said,”Farmers should not panic. As of now orange is being preferred as kinnow was still sour, Now the cold wave has started and kinnow will become sweet in the coming days. I am sure they will get better prices after mid-January. Moreover, this year area under kinnow increased marginally from 56,000 Ha to 58,000 Ha in Punjab but total yield is 12 lakh MT against 9 lakh MT of last year, so this is one reason for less price as of now. Contractors are busy in the states which have oranges and they will come in January. All this has nothing to do with farmers’ agitation.”
Meanwhile, farmers from the kinnow belt are also going to farmers’ agitation on a regular basis and they have also sent four trucks of kinnows to the borders as ‘sewa’.
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