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Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019

Farmer unrest surfaces in MP again as garlic prices plunge

Glut of the produce in Rajasthan makes prices decline in wholesale markets.

bhopal Updated: May 06, 2018 22:23 IST
The Malwa region witnessed a violent protest by farmers in June last year demanding higher prices for their produce.
The Malwa region witnessed a violent protest by farmers in June last year demanding higher prices for their produce. (Mujeeb Faruqui/HT file)

Farmer unrest has resurfaced in Neemuch and Mandsaur districts in Malwa region of poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, this time over crashing garlic prices.

On Friday, garlic prices plunged to Re 1 per kg at Shyamgarh mandi — the vegetable wholesale market — in Mandsaur district, while the price in neighbouring Neemuch mandi stood at Rs 2 per kg. “The selling price of garlic was between Rs 50 and Rs 80 per kg in January this year,” said Suryabahnu Singh, a farmer from Darukheda village.

The Shyamgarh mandi saw nearly 100 farmers gherao the market committee’s office on Friday evening, forcing committee authorities to call the police.

The Malwa region in western MP had witnessed a violent farmers’ protest demanding higher prices for produce in June 2017. Six farmers from Neemuch and Mandsaur died during the violence as police opened fire.

A garlic glut in Rajasthan, the country’s second largest producer after MP, has caused prices of the commodity to decline in wholesale markets. The downside pressure on garlic prices comes amid India’s subdued wholesale price inflation, which eased to an eight-month low of 2.47% in March, compared with a 2.48% rise in February. This was led largely by a 0.4% decline in food prices alone.

The Hataudi region of Rajasthan comprising divisions such as Kota and Jahawar, is the state’s prime garlic belt. “Oversupply has been the key reason why prices have been depressed this season. Rajasthan garlic is sold in major markets of neighbouring states such as Indore, Ahmedabad and Nasik,” said Digvijay Singh, a state marketing board official. The area under garlic in Rajasthan has increased to about 13 million hectare in 2017-18 from about 70,000 hectare in the previous year, while production has doubled from 0.37 million tonne in 2016-17 to 0.77 million tonnes this year.

While Madhya Pradesh is the largest grower, accounting for 31% of the total output, Rajasthan’s share is 24%.

Sensing a glut, the Rajasthan government had intimated the Union agriculture ministry last month on a proposal to intervene in the market by launching a limited-period procurement scheme of garlic.

After the approval from the Cente, the Rajasthan government has started buying garlic at a state-determined price. The official pegged daily arrivals from the Kota region at around 12,000 tonne.

MP, where elections are expected this year (the assembly tenure ends on January 7, 2019), too has a programme, Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana, to pay for farm produce, but farmers such as Suryabahnu Singh are not convinced that is enough.

Former Neemuch mandi president and garlic farmer Umrao Gurjar explains why. “Under Bhavantar, the government is going to give Rs 800 per quintal to a farmer. As the government has fixed 15 quintal as average production per bigha, a farmer is going to get only Rs 12,000 per bigha, while the actual input cost comes to Rs 20,000 per bigha. No wonder the farmers are angry.”

Farmer leader Shiv Kumar Sharma said the pricing has repeatedly hurt food growers of Malwa region, which accounts for a majority of the garlic production in the state. “Malwa’s farmers lost out last year when they produced onion and the prices crashed to as low as 50 paise per kg. Many shifted to garlic and its price too has crashed.”

(With inputs from HTC, Delhi )