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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Sep 2014

Hafed project fails to deliver; turmeric area down 6 times

Vishal Joshi, Hindustan Times  Radaur (Yamunanagar), July 16, 2014
First Published: 12:22 IST(16/7/2014) | Last Updated: 12:24 IST(16/7/2014)

Owing to low returns to farmers for their crop, the ambitious project of the Haryana State Cooperative and Marketing Federation (Hafed) to promote turmeric farming in the district has fallen flat.

In the last six years, the area under turmeric in Yamunanagar district has shrunk from 3,000 acre to 500 acre in 2014. Agriculture experts blame the government departments for pushing the project without carrying out any scientific field study. In 2008, Hafed had started a turmeric processing plant at Radaur with a capacity of 1,437 tonne per year.

District horticulture officer (DHO), Yamunanagar, Illam Chand Saini said to promote turmeric farming, Hafed had started paying Rs. 2,000 per quintal or Rs. 20 per kg for raw turmeric. “Farmers were elated over the handsome price and by 2009 the area under turmeric in Yamunanagar reached 3,000 acre. But later Hafed reduced the purchase price to Rs. 600 per quintal and farmers maintained a distance from turmeric farming,” he said.

He added that as Yamunanagar was a major plywood and paper manufacturing area, turmeric was ideal for sowing along poplar trees. “If sown with poplar, a farmer can get yield of 60 quintals from an acre,” said the DHO. Besides a subsidy on the Rajapuri and Rajendra-Sonia varieties of turmeric, the state horticulture department also offers training to farmers keen on sowing turmeric.

However, several farmers told HT that the authorities did not pay more than Rs. 6-7 per kg for raw turmeric, which is very less. They said Hafed officials had assured farmers of paying minimum RS 20 per kg.

Avnish Kumar, a progressive farmer at Radauri village said in 2011 he sowed turmeric on 3.5 acre land in open field and had a bumper crop. “I was disheartened when Hafed refused to buy the crop on flimsy grounds. A portion of my crop was purchased by Hafed while nearly 50 quintal crop rot at my field. But no one is ready to take blame for poor planning,” said Kumar, whose success story as a mushroom grower is well-documented by Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar.

A trader from Jubbal village, Yashpal Kamboj, said, “Now Hafed is asking farmers to boil raw turmeric and bring to its unit to get higher prices. Most of the farmers engaged in it have small land holdings and cannot afford automatic boilers,” he said.

‘NO FIELD STUDY CARRIED OUT’

An agriculturist at Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Damla, near here blamed the state agencies for blindly promoting turmeric farming in the area.

The expert, who is not authorised to speak to the media, told HT that neither any field study was conducted nor any suggestion from the HAU was sought before recommending seed varieties.

“Wheat, paddy or sugarcane (traditional crops sown in the area) sown in an acre of land fetch more income than turmeric. Moreover, with no MSP, why the farmers should indulge in loss-making farming?” said the expert.

Meanwhile, sources in Hafed admitted that the cooperative’s only processing unit failed to encourage farmers. Sources said the plant could hardly process half of its capacity at 650 quintals.

Manager of Hafed plant at Radaur, Pawan Kamboj said turmeric prices in the market had not increased in four years and the state-run cooperative cannot pay more than the prevalent market rates.

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