Debt, despair and drought: Once their cash cows, cattle a liability now for farmershttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/debt-despair-and-drought-once-their-cash-cows-cattle-a-liability-now-for-farmers/

Debt, despair and drought: Once their cash cows, cattle a liability now for farmers

Farmers flock to market to sell their livestock, complain that very few interested in buying them, that too at a low price.

AFTER TRAVELLING for more than 200 kms all the way from Niphad of Nashik District, Sunil Bhaskar Kashid had come to the village of Belhe to participate in the cattle market. Since the last few months, it’s been a struggle for him to feed his family of 16 people, leave aside a bullock. Following someone’s suggestion that he would get a good price for his bullock at Belhe cattle market, he decided to travel the distance. However, despite his long wait—7 am onwards—he is unable to find a single buyer for his bull.

“Ideally the bull should fetch between Rs 30,000 and 35,000 but there are hardly any buyers, and those interested, are not ready to offer more than Rs 15,000. I can’t keep him at home because I can’t feed him. Our entire crop has got spoiled due to no rain in summer and later, the unseasonal rain. A day’s fodder costs anywhere between Rs 100 and 150. I already have a loan of Rs 3 lakh on my head,” says Kashid, who has been into grape farming since more than a decade.

Organised every week on Monday in Belhe, about an hour-and-a-half from Pune, interested buyers and sellers from across Maharashtra gather at this cattle market to strike a deal. Almost 5,000 to 7,000 livestock, including goats, bullocks and buffaloes, are brought every week to the market that is abuzz with activity from 7 am to 5 pm wherein interested parties discuss, bargain and make a deal. In general, the participants include farmers those interested in buying livestock as well as businessmen who want to sell cattle at a high margin.
However, this year, the trend has changed. More than 25 per cent participants are those farmers who have come to the market to sell their own livestock.

Arun Bhimaji Gite has come to Belhe from Lavana in Ambegaon Taluka to get a good price for his pair of bullocks. “From the last five months, I have been borrowing to feed them (bulls). There are 26 members in our family. We ourselves are barely able to manage with the leftover crop of last year. In normal circumstances, a pair of bulls sells for Rs 1.25 lakhs. Today, nobody is ready to give me more than 50,000,” he says.

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Just last month, Krushna Dhamane of Manchar has sold one of his tractors. “Now, situation is so bad that I have no option but to sell my bull -at least I will get Rs 50-60,000 that will help me sustain for some time,” he shares.

Even the businessmen who have booked huge profit at the cattle market in the past rue that the ‘business’ is no more lucrative. “Earlier, I would get 7-8 bulls to the market and by the end of the day, would sell of at least five to six. Today, I got six in the morning. After sitting for five hours, I was able to sell just one and that too at a low margin,” says Ramdas Ganpat Dabhade, who hails from Loni Mavala in Ahmednagar and has been in this field since 1991. Dabhade asserts that just one-and-a-half years ago, when times were ‘good’ he had sold a bull for a lakh also, unlike now when it is fetching him a mere Rs 20-30,000.

Jawed Ahmed Sheikh from Rande village, who has participated in the cattle market in the past, complains that earlier the market would go on till 5 pm in the evening, now both buyers-sellers gauge the energy of the market and leave by 1 pm. “We came to know there will not be any ‘business’ today. There are a very few who stick around. When farmers themselves are selling their cattle, who will buy ours,” he questions.