Jagdish Lohar, in his mid 40s, of Bharbhadia village in Neemuch district of Madhya Pradesh is distraught.
A few days ago his eldest son, a Class 12 pass out, was selected for a three-month electrical training programme with an Indore-based firm. But he is in no mood to celebrate.
Reason: Lohar is one of more than four lakh farmers, whose Isabgol crop was damaged in the unseasonal rain and hailstorms that hit the state twice — in the first week of March.
Neemuch, known for its opium cultivation, has of late found a new cash crop in the form of Isabgol. "Opium is always there which gives return. But for small and marginal farmers, Isabgol is indeed the new cash crop," said Lohar, who suffered a loss of seven quintals this year.
"In mandis, Isabgol fetches between Rs 12,000 and Rs 14,000 per quintal," he said.
With the demand for Isabgol increasing worldwide and climate of Neemuch apt for its cultivation, everybody now in Neemuch looks towards its produce in the district.
And it is this loss that has hurt the farmers most. Neemuch also has one of a kind Isabgol husk plants in the state.
"Every house here cultivates Isabgol in 5-7 bighas. The sowing is cheap and the return is high," said Sunil Patidar, 38, who has been in agriculture since he was 18.
Patidar further said Isabgol's medicinal quality has added to its demand. "Most of the Isabgol seeds are purchased by pharmaceutical plants in Gujarat from these mandis," he said.
Returns from Isabgol have brought down the opium cultivators to 27,000 from 50,000 in the last five years.
No wonder, when Congress president Sonia Gandhi visited nearly 11 villages affected by rain and hailstorms on Thursday, there was excitement in these small and marginal farmers.