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Maha: Scorpion Pest Eats Away Pomegranate Gardens Across Four Districts

Solapur, Ahmednagar, Pune and Sangali district's pomegranate cultivators are facing a major crisis in face of the pest attack. Many have been forced to cut down entire gardens.

Shankar Wayakar is a pomegranate cultivator from Ahmednagar's Jamkhed tehsil. Usually, in the second week of April, Shankar plucks the remaining fruits of the season. But this time, he is busy cutting down all the trees on 4.5 acres of his farmland. The reason is an unprecedented attack of scorpion pests on his cultivation.

"Almost all of my trees were infected. I had no option but to cut them down. Otherwise, it would have spread across crops. This pest mainly attacks fruits. I hear similar cases are coming from many places," said Shankar. He has lost more than Rs 7 lakh, and he will need more than 3.5 lakh rupees again for plantation.

Maharashtra is the biggest producer of pomegranates in India. As per 2021 data by the State's horticulture ministry, 68.9% of India’s total production comes from Maharashtra alone. Solapur, Sangali, Satara, Ahmednagar, Pune and Jalana are the State's biggest producing districts. As per the information coming from local media reports and farmers, out of these districts, Solapur, Ahmednagar, Pune and Sangali districts witnessing an attack of scorpion pests on pomegranate trees.

The attack of scorpion pests is expected almost every three-four years. But this time, the severity is very high. In Solapur's Sangalo tehsil, more than 14 highly productive villages are witnessing this attack. Balasaheb Gaikwad has to cut down his 6 acres of pomegranate farm due to the infection. Sangola is a drought-prone teshil. But hardworking farmers from this area changed their fortune with massive success in pomegranate cultivation. In almost two and a half lakh acres of cultivation in the state, Sangola's share is approximately 45-50%. That is the ratio of success of the farmers. But, the scorpion pest has destroyed almost 40-50% of fruits, according to Gaikwad.

"I faced the loss of Rs 10 lakh due to this pest. Almost every farmer in our area is worried and facing losses. I have a bank loan and have taken money from one friend. I will have to go for plantation again. All this needs almost 15 lakh rupees. How would I raise this?" Balasaheb was asked with despair.

The Maharashtra government's horticulture department is currently taking stock of the situation. Sandipan Bhumare, minister for horticulture, told NewsClick that officials had been asked to do panchnama, a preliminary report of losses. But farmers are demanding immediate financial assistance, and the government has not decided on this yet.

"The crop insurance is also so low that this year's losses won't be compensated with that. We will need government help to raise the trees again," said Shankar Waykar.

The success of pomegranate farmers is always there in all state government advertisements. But today, the same farmers are in crisis, and the government is yet to decide about help. All India Kisan Sabha state general secretary Ajit Nawale slammed this approach. "You need them for your marketing. Then why not help them? The state government must give Rs 50,000 as compensation per acre. Also, there should be a zero-interest loan for re-plantation," Nawale demanded.

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