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Karnataka Elections: Tumakuru Coconut Growers Face Myriad Issues, Including Poor Market Prices

In Tumakuru district, roughly 1.50 lakh hectares is used for coconut farming, involving 50% of the total population.
coconut growers

Image Courtesy: Pixahive

Tumakuru: Poor market prices, improper data on the crops grown and sold and diseases like stem bleeding are some of the major issues faced by farmers who grow coconut in the Tumakuru district in Karnataka.

With elections around the corner, the Bharatiya Janata Party, Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) have made a slew of promises for farmers in their election manifesto.

The primary occupation of the majority of rural population in Tumakuru district is agriculture -- mainly cultivation of coconuts, and allied activities.

The Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, a farmers' association in the state has shown resentment towards the Centre's farm policies and alleged their demand for better minimum support price (MSP) has been neglected.

In Tumakuru district, there are approximately 1.50 lakh hectares of land used by the farmers for coconut farming and around 50% of the total population is involved in the vocation.

"The farmers in Karnataka are facing a major problem, which is price fall. The cost of cultivation of copra, recommended by the government is Rs 17,000 per quintal or Rs 170 per Kg and MSP is Rs 117 per Kg. The Centre is not even giving proper cost of cultivation to the farmers here," Jayachandra Sharma of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha told PTI.

Sharma claimed farmers in Tumakuru were suffering a loss of at least Rs 50 per kg in terms of cost of cultivation and that their association had been urging the government for a decent margin.

Speaking about the demand of the farmers in Tumakuru district, he said they want the total cultivation cost along with profit to be Rs 25,000 per quintal of copra or Rs 250 per kg.

"We are demanding MSP as Rs 20,000 per quintal and Rs 5,000 support price from the government. The Karnataka government has no respect for farmers. Their policies are threat to the farming community. They have taken several odd decisions," he alleged.

Sharma said the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC) in Karnataka had been providing "incorrect data" on quantum of material being grown and sold and that the government considers Tumakuru farmers to have lack of production of oilseed due to the data.

The APMC Act allows private players to directly approach farmers to purchase agricultural produce.

Several farmers groups in Karnataka had staged protests in Tumakuru, Mysuru, Mandya, Chikkaballapur, Kolar, Mangaluru, Hubbali and Dhawad after the APMC Act was approved in the Assembly in 2020.

"Government is procuring palm oil from other countries and because of this, the markets have crashed for us. While Rs 170 is the cost of cultivation, market price is Rs 80 per kg because of import of palm oil. Consumers are moving from coconut to palm oil as it cheaper," he said.

Sharma further alleged that despite resentment, the demands of farmers groups were neglected by the state government.

Farmers demand a scientific price which will allow them to survive.

"The government should also take care of the tools, machineries, insecticides and pesticides," he added.

Some other challenges faced by the farmers involved in coconut plantation are the diseases that affect the trees -- stem bleeding and bud rotting.

Farmers in Tumakuru district claim they have suffered major losses in the past three years due to the diseases that affect their coconut cultivation.

"The diseases in coconut trees have increased significantly in the last one year.  Because of these diseases, cultivation of crops has been difficult and has been impacting our livelihoods. We don’t have any other job, we are dependent on coconut farming," Gangadaraia, a coconut farmer and a member of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha said.

He further said that the upcoming government in the State should address their problems and find a solution to the diseases affecting their cultivation.

"There are major challenges here, the problem of the irrigation system and dependency on groundwater. Because of scarcity of water, the resistance power of the plant is reduced. Stem bleeding is one of the major issues and then bud rot disease has also been seen at several patches of the farm lands," Devaraj Timlapur, district president of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha.

He claimed that while the cost of cultivation for copra was Rs 18,000 to 19,000 per quintal in 2022, the rate has reduced to Rs 8,500-9000 per quintal in 2023.

"The cost of cultivation is down and reduced almost by 50%. In this situation we are not being able to maintain our farms. Our families are in distress. Our livelihoods depend on this," Devaraj claimed.

He said that the farmers group had staged protests to bring it to the notice of the government but the "ruling dispensation did nothing for us," he added.

On the political implications of the farmers' issues in Tumakuru district, political analyst Chambi Puranik said there wouldn't be any huge impact during the Assembly elections. "The impact might be moderate but there wouldn’t be any reverse mandate in the area," he said.

Speaking about the issues faced by Tiptur farmers, incumbent MLA and BJP candidate from the area BC Nagesh said there were problems but those "are solved automatically by nature."

"They are doing research and they are developing some anti-virus for that. The disease of the caterpillar stays in the plants and there is no treatment for that. There are certain problems but those problems are solved automatically by the nature," Nagesh told PTI.

Lashing out at Nagesh, Congress candidate from Tiptur, K Shadakshari, alleged the farmers had been neglected by the incumbent MLA and that, "he is least bothered about their issues."

"There is no coordination between the farmers, sellers and buyers. Nagesh is least bothered about the copra farmers and their issues. When I was the MLA, I always coordinated with the farmers and took care of their problems," Shadakshari said.

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