COVID-19 Lockdown: UP Flower Farmers Forced to Feed Yield to Cattle in Absence of Buyers
Lucknow/Barabanki: Ramesh, 39, who goes by his initial name, has been very worried lately and slowly slipping into depression as there is no one to buy his flower produce. Ramesh is a flower farmer based in Mal area of Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh.
He owns five bighas of land, on which he has been cultivating flowers like rose, gerbera, gladiolus and marigolds from the last three years. But this time, these colourful yields have become either cattle fodder or have been thrown in the waste in the absence of buyers during the ongoing lockdown to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ramesh says he has not been able to sell even a single flower this marriage season due to which his family has been suffering. “In the month of October, I invested Rs 3 lakh by taking a loan from the Kisan Credit Card and was able to sell some gladiolus flowers in the month of January and February but the crop was affected due to unseasonal rain and hailstorm so I incurred a loss. I was hopeful of earning some profit from the marigold and gerbera flowers this wedding season but the season has been hampered by the loss due to lockdown,” he said.
Talking more about his loss, he added, “I feel helpless and I do not know what my future course of action should be. I have been feeding the flowers to cattle and giving it for free to whoever wants to. There is no demand or market for these flowers this year, and many farmers like me are going to starve. I demand the government to at least waive off the interest on loan the flower farmers have taken along with the electricity bill.”
It is to be mentioned that Uttar Pradesh is one of the largest flower producers in India from where flowers are sent to many parts of India and even to the Middle East.
The floriculture in Uttar Pradesh picked up pace after 2010 when farmers started growing flowers other than roses and marigold. The first polyhouse of decorative flowers was started in Barabanki by Moinuddin.
Moinuddin, 42, a farmer from Dafedarpur village from Barabanki, about 30 km from the state capital of Lucknow, claimed that the flower farmers in the state are going to lose at least a minimum of Rs 100 crore due to the lockdown.
“I have three polyhouses in one acre land in which I grow different flowers. In one sahalag (auspicious marriage dates) season I was earning a profit of Rs 10- 15 lakh but this year the output is zero and I am incurring a loss of Rs 2,000 per day on each polyhouse’s maintenance and that I am paying from my own pocket. There are about 2,500 flower farmers who have been doing good business across the state but today they are in loss because of the lockdown. The big farmers like me are with the government to fight this pandemic but the government should come up with something for the small farmers who depend on loans and are in debt. There are many farmers in Lucknow who have been struggling to make two square meals for their family and are on the verge of starvation. The government and the concerned department is yet to make any announcement for them,” he said, explaining how the lockdown has rendered small farmers more vulnerable.
According to the advance estimates on area and production of horticulture crops for 2018-19 issued by the National Horticulture Board, 33,900 hectares under flower cultivation would have clocked a produce of 28,580 metric tonnes. The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), the body responsible for export, promotion and development of floriculture in India, puts the value of exports by the country at Rs 571.38 crore /81.94 million USD in 2018-19.
Prem Singh, an agriculture expert from Banda in Uttar Pradesh said that all farmers, irrespective of what they grow, have faced a double whammy this year. “The crops were first affected by the torrential rainfall, low temperature and even hailstorms and now the lockdown is killing the farmers of the country. The government and local administration should come up with some strategy to help them otherwise the Annadata (giver of grains referring to farmers) will die without food and if they die then who will grow grains for us,” he said, adding, “The government can bring an MSP (minimum support price) for fruit growers or can give a sustenance allowance to them and even waive off electricity bill, small loans etc. This is very much needed.”
Officials from the concerned departments did not reply to the phone calls.
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