The sudden crash in prices of agricultural produce has left Karnataka farmers dismayed, who are already distressed following a severe drought in the state.
In Karnataka, the price of the premium quality onions, which was between Rs 12 and Rs 15 per kg, has now crashed to below Rs 10, say reports. In other parts of the state, the farmers are even forced to sell their produce for as low as Rs 1 per kg.
While the market price of one quintal of onion, which was around Rs 2,000 has drooped to Rs 1,200 within a day. Even the price of the cheaper quality of onions has dropped from Rs 800 per quintal to Rs 300 per quintal, causing a great loss to the farmers. During the same time last year, the wholesale market price of onion had gone up to Rs 3,000 per quintal.
Recently, the distressed farmers had organised a “rasta roko” protest, and had thrown onions on the road in Bagalkot and in Hubballi. The farmers’ organisation Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha held a protest in Bengaluru, urging the government to announce minimum support price (MSP) for the produce, and to open centres across the state for collecting onions. It is estimated that the average cost of production of onion is around Rs 800-900 per quintal.
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“We spend more on transporting onions from the farm to the market than what we get,” said Hanumanthappa, one of the farmers who had come down to Bengaluru from Raichur district to be the part of the protest.
Apart from the onion farmers, farmers from the sugarcane cultivating belt are also in deep distress since the mills are yet to clear the arrears. Belagavi and Bagalkot districts have a higher concentration of sugar factories in the state. The factories had earlier promised a payment more than the legally enforceable fair and remunerative price (FRP). The promise was to ensure a bulk supply before the crushing began. Though the supply was assured, the factories have failed to keep their promise.
In fact, in the past three years, the four major sugarcane-growing districts have accounted for a quarter of all farmers suicides in the state, says a report by Times of India.
As many as 2,480 farmers have committed suicide in Karnataka from April 2016 to August 2018. Among this, Belagavi, Bagalkot, Mandya and Haveri districts account for 589 – 24 per cent – of the deaths. Another sugarcane-growing district Vijayapura accounts for 67 deaths.
The sugarcane farmers have also been demanding an MSP of Rs 3,000 per tonne for their produces with 9.5 per cent recovery. The current MSP of sugarcane is Rs 2,500 per tonne that was fixed by the then Congress government during last year.
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The sharp decrease in the prices of agricultural produce is a huge blow to the farmers who have already been affected by the drought. Of the 30 districts across the state, 24 are drought-hit following the deficit in rainfall during the monsoon season. It is estimated that the drought resulted in a loss of Rs 16,662 crore.