Vegetable farmers in Malwa region continued to suffer in the absence of aid promised by government to minimise the effects of demonetisation and cash crunch, which have forced them to sell their produce at lower prices.
On December 24, Madhya Pradesh government announced plans to make cash van facility available at all vegetable mandis (markets) in the state following reports of crash in prices of agriculture commodities. It had also planned transport subsidy for vegetable growers.
However, when HT visited Laxmibai Nagar and Choithram mandis—the largest in the region—the promised facilities were not available.
Farmers were getting poor prices for a range of vegetables and in some cases, such as green peas and tomatoes, they were not getting enough to even cover the input costs.
“Our condition has gone from bad to worse due to cash crunch and demonetisation. Today (on Monday) we are getting Rs 50-60 for a crate (25 kg) of tomatoes. That will barely cover the transport, hammali (porter) and mandi charges,” said Hukumchand Makwana, a farmer from Piplu village, about 70 km from Indore.
“We have to pay labourers and also need money for paying interest on debt besides running our households. So we have no option but to sell our produce at low rates,” said farmer Shantilal Chawra who has been staying at the mandi premises for past three days to sell his green peas, whose prices have come down to Rs 5 per kg, less than the input costs.
The demand-supply equation has also turned against the farmers as production of seasonal vegetables has increased whereas people have tightened their purses.
When asked about the support provided by the mandi administration after demonetisation, commission agent Ashok Bhilware said they have been left to fend for themselves.
Commission agents act as a link between farmers and wholesale traders to keep the vegetable supply chain running and often lend money to farmers.
“Small farmers need cash for their daily requirements. Nowadays, there is liquidity crisis but farmers supplying vegetable do not accept cheques,” he said.
Officials told HT that no directive to provide special facilities to vegetable farmers has come from Bhopal.
“We have not received any such directive (to talk to the banks about providing cash vans or give transport subsidy) so far from the state government,” Praveen Verma, deputy director, MP State Agricultural Marketing Board, Indore region, said.
Choithram mandi in-charge B B S Tomar could not be reached for comment despite visit to his office, repeated calls and text messages.
Prices of potatoes, onions, and seasonal vegetables including tomatoes and green peas have crashed.
Transportation costs are increasing due to rise in fuel costs. On top of that farmers have to pay to hammals (porters) and also pay mandi charges. So in some cases, they have been unable to recover even the input costs.
Facilities announced by the government including cash vans and transport subsidy have not been implemented