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Garlic turns pungent for Rajasthan farmers as prices crash

According to Rajasthan’s Directorate of Horticulture, garlic production in the Hadoti region rose from 5,91,687 tonnes in 2016-2017 to 7,16,120 tonnes this crop year, resulting in lower prices.

Written by Deep Mukherjee |
June 21, 2018 1:06:32 am
Garlic turns pungent for Rajasthan farmers as prices crash Ranveer, brother of Mahaveer Dhakad, who committed suicide last month, stands next to unsold garlic at their home in Khairali village of Baran district. (Express photo by Deep Mukherjee)

It’s been more than a month since the body of Mahaveer Dhakad was found hanging from a tree. Anil, the eldest of the 44-year-old farmer’s two sons, stares blankly at the sacks of garlic stored in their house in Khairali village of Baran tehsil. The produce is from the crop that Dhakad had cultivated before his death.

“My father had a loan of more than Rs 5 lakh, which he hoped to repay after the harvest this time. The low garlic rates had clearly left him depressed,” Anil, 20, told The Indian Express. Dhakad, who died on May 8, was among the five farmers from Rajasthan’s Hadoti region to have committed suicide this year, allegedly after sustaining huge losses from a crash in garlic prices.

“I have no option now but to work as a labourer. The government has not given us any assurance of compensation either,” Sushila, Dhakad’s wife, said.

According to Rajasthan’s Directorate of Horticulture, garlic production in the Hadoti region — comprising the southeastern districts of Bundi, Kota, Baran and Jhalawar — rose from 5,91,687 tonnes in 2016-2017 to 7,16,120 tonnes this crop year, resulting in lower prices.

“After he died, I have sold his crop for as little as Rs 400 per quintal,” said Ranveer, Mahaveer’s brother. Last year, farmers in this belt had realised rates of Rs 3,500-5,000 per quintal, while it was Rs 6,000-8,000 the year before.

60-year-old Revadilal Meghwal from Rahlai village in Baran’s Atru tehsil is another farmer who took his life on April 19 under similar circumstances.

“He went to the mandi to find buyers for the 50 quintal of garlic that he had grown on 7 bighas (2.8 acres). Shortly after returning home, he fell ill. He had consumed poison and died after being taken to the hospital,” Meghwal’s son Ramswaroop said.

Meghwal’s wife Dani Bai sees little hope in selling the garlic stocked in their house similar to that of Dhakad’s. Meghwal has also left behind five sons, the youngest 13 years old.

Most farmers here complain about not being able to sell their crop to the Rajasthan State Co-operative Marketing Federation Ltd (RAJFED) under the state government’s market intervention scheme (MIS). While the procurement price for garlic under this scheme is Rs 3,257 per quintal, a mere 59,722 tonnes had been purchased from 16,628 farmers in the entire state as on June 19.

Mahaveer Dhakad was among the five farmers from Rajasthan’s Hadoti region to have committed suicide this year.

“The losses are even more difficult to bear when the crop is cultivated on land taken on lease. Many of us have had to pay Rs 10,000-15,000 per bigha upfront to the landowners. This cost seemed worth incurring when prices were good, but not today,” Ramkishan Meghwal, another farmer from Rahlai, said.

“We have not seen a situation as bad as this. Most farmers here were earlier growing only wheat and mustard during the rabi (winter) season. They switched to garlic big time during the last 4-5 years after seeing the high prices. Many of them took loans and even leased land to cultivate this cash crop. Their miseries really started after demonetisation, followed by GST,” said Baran-based Satyanarayan Singh, a member of the Kisan Mahapanchayat, a farmer organisation.

Meanwhile, the Rajasthan government on Wednesday extended the period for garlic procurement by RAJFED under MIS until June 30. Garlic purchases under the scheme began from April 13 and were to originally end on May 12, before being extended to June 20. The decision to further extend procurement until the end of the month was apparently taken by Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje after a public hearing of farmers at Pipalda, a tehsil town in Kota, on Wednesday.

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