Covid-19 lockdown hits tea, pineapple growers in Bihar; farmers dump produce
The tea growers’ association in Bihar’ Kishanganj has estimated losses worth Rs 20 crore.Updated: Apr 19, 2020 14:42 IST
The Covid-19 lockdown has not only hit the conventional crop farmers in Bihar, but tea and pineapple growers too. These businesses have been impacted equally hard with farmers in Kishanganj district being forced to dump their produce due to lack of processing and prospective buyers leading to heavy monetary losses in the last few weeks.
The tea growers’ association in Kishanganj has estimated losses worth Rs 20 crore due to non-plucking of green leaves in time (from March end to April first week) as the gardens and factories remained shut for work after lockdown.
As per reports, growers dumped a large quantity of green leaves in the first flush from March 22 to April 7 as there were no buyers for the produce.
Raj Karan Daftari, a tea garden owner and president of Ashok Bihar Tea Plantation Development Society, Kishanganj, said, “Around 5,000 small and marginal farmers growing tea (a cash crop) in their fields have been hit due to non-plucking of green leaves.”
“After lockdown, our processing units and factories came to a halt. Permission was granted to resume work in April first week. But, by that time, one cycle of plucking of leaves was over and huge quantity of green leaves were damaged prompting farmers to dump them. Estimated one crore kg of green leaf, worth Rs 20 crore, was damaged in the past few weeks in the district,” Daftari said.
The society has already approached the tea board for compensation after necessary survey, he said. “The state government should provide some relief to small and marginal tea growers as they are not registered with the tea board having small fields where tea is grown,” he said.
In Kishanganj, the total tea production is estimated to be 75 lakh kg annually while green leaf production is nine crore kg annually. There are 10 processing units in the district with maximum tea growers concentrated in Pothia, Thakurganj and Kishanganj blocks.
Struggle for pineapple farmers
On the other hand, the plight of pineapple farmers is more pitiable. Dulal Singh, a pineapple grower based in Pothia block of Kisganganj, said thousands of fruit pieces had perished in last few weeks because there was no way the produce could be sent to the nearest markets in north Bengal.
“We sell our produce to the whole sellers in Bengal and it is sent to several states, including Delhi. But due to lockdown, there are no buyers at all and transportation is difficult. Our fruits are perishing each day because the summer heat is rising, which damages the fruit fast,” he said. Singh said the tropical fruit pieces are lying unplucked in the fields.
“We invested Rs 1-3 lakh in the fields for the produce. But we are not even getting Rs 2 for one fruit these days when it usually fetches a good price. We have been pushed almost 10-15 years back in terms of trade losses, which is in crores,” said Mohammed Rafiq, another pineapple grower. He said the yield per acre is around 12,000 pieces of the tropical fruit.
Meanwhile, agriculture secretary N Saravana Kumar said that the state government had taken up the matter of allowing fast transportation of pineapples to north Bengal with the West Bengal government and central government.
“We are coordinating with the West Bengal government and Centre to ensure that buyers are able to buy the produce from the fields in Kishanganj and other areas. We are making arrangements to ensure that the pineapple produce reaches the markets in north Bengal by road and the DMs have been directed to keep tab on it,” the secretary said.
On the losses in tea sector, the secretary said that the tea comes in commercial crop category and there are no provisions for any compensation. “We have allowed the tea gardens to resume work and operations are going on now,” he said.