March 29, 2021 9:10:37 pm
In the wake of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray indicating that a state-wide lockdown could be imminent to deal with rising cases of Covid-19, a section of farmers in the state have opposed such a move, pointing out the financial hardships it will entail. Farmers say they would face severe losses in sale of products such as milk, fruits and vegetables if markets close.
While growers of non-perishable commodities like chana, tur and wheat might not face problems with disposal of their produce, a lockdown would result in huge losses to them. Last year, the nationwide lockdown in March had hit farmers hard, with many vegetable and fruit growers forced to throw away market-ready produce.
Santosh Gorde, a grape and onion grower from the village of Takli Vinchur in Niphad taluka of Nashik district, urged the chief minister not to announce any such lockdown till April 15. “The grape season is in its last leg and there should be no lockdown for at least the next 15 days. If the markets are closed, we will again be compelled to discard our produce,” he said.
Last year, Gorde and other grape farmers had sustained huge losses as the lockdown had dried up markets and prices had collapsed to Rs 10-12 per kg. Currently, farmers are selling their produce between Rs 30-60 per kg.
India has seen export of 6,800 container-load of grapes this season, nearly 5 per cent lower than last year. Vilas Shinde, CMD of Nashik-headquartered Sahyadri Farmers Producers Company, said the season has already encountered many issues and a lockdown would add to the losses. “We will be… operational with all the Covid-10 measures in place… we can’t afford another year of loss,” he said.
As talk of lockdown gains ground, traders from other states have stopped coming to Maharashtra to deal with farmers. Sangli-based farmer Ankush Chormule said markets for fruits like watermelon and musk melon have seen fall in sales. “The government has not made any alternate market chain ready. What are farmers supposed to do if the existing markets are closed,” he asked.
Farmer leader and former MP Raju Shetti also spoke out against a lockdown, saying such a move will backfire on the economy. Other than fruits and vegetable growers, farmers who had invested in high-tech farming, like polyhouses or green houses, have also experienced heavy losses.
Shetti said he has decided to meet state Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte on Tuesday to discuss the issue.
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