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Garlic glut, price crash leave Rajasthan farmers in distress

A glut in garlic production in the Hadauti region of Rajasthan has led to a price crash, leaving farmers in distress in the last two years

jaipur Updated: Jun 01, 2018 22:36 IST
Aabshar H Quazi
Aabshar H Quazi
Hindustan Times
Rajasthan,Garlic glut,Price crash
Garlic is selling at almost half the prices of last year in Kota, forcing farmers to incur heavy losses.(AH Zaidi/HT Photo)

A glut in garlic production in the Hadauti region of Rajasthan has led to a price crash, leaving farmers in distress in the last two years.

The Hadauti region – comprising Kota, Bundi, Baran and Jhalawar districts -- accounts for more than 90% of garlic production in the state, according to the agriculture department data.

“I got an average of Rs 16 per kg while selling eight quintals of garlic this year. This is a big fall, as I used to get between Rs 60 and 90 per kg two years ago,” said Chauthmal Nagar, a farmer from Bachhihera area of Kota. “I had sold garlic at rock-bottom prices last year too.”

Garlic was not a traditional crop in the region; farmers started cultivating garlic as a cash crop at the beginning of this decade after witnessing a jump in garlic prices.

Agriculture department figures show that garlic cultivation area increased in Hadauti in the last five years. Farmers in Kota took to garlic farming in a big way as canal-fed irrigation and rivers ensured plenty of water required for the crop.

The net area under garlic in Rajasthan has increased from 69,000 hectare to 1.32 lakh hectare and the production has also doubled from 3.77 lakh MT to 7.7 lakh MT this year.

But bumper production led to a price crash. A good harvest of crop in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh also pushed the prices down. Farmers in MP claim that garlic in the wholesale market is selling at as low as Re 1 per kg. A year after the agitation in which five farmers died in police firing, farmers in MP’s Mandsaur are protesting again. The protest soon spread to Rajasthan, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala.

“Because of deficient rainfall in 2017, farmers had to set up tube wells for irrigation which added to the production cost of garlic. And the price crash left the farmers in distress,” said Om Prakash Nagar, sarpanch of Brij Nagar village in Kota.

Under farmers’ pressure, the Rajasthan government started purchasing garlic under the Centre’s Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) from the last week of April this year. So far the government has bought only 10% of the target on a minimum support price of ₹3,257 per quintal or ₹32.57 per kg.

“The target for garlic purchase under MIS was around 13 lakh quintals in Hadauti region and so far around 13000 quintals have been purchased,” said Tej Singh Nirwan, regional manager of the Rajasthan State Agriculture Marketing Federation (Rajfed).

May 31 was the last date for the government purchase of garlic, but Rajfed officials were hopeful of an extension. Farmers’ organisations are annoyed over the slow government purchase of garlic.

Hadauti Kisan Union general secretary Dashrath Kumar said government norms came in the way of purchase of garlic. “Government should buy the entire garlic on MSP or ensure that garlic is not sold below MSP of Rs 32.57 per kg to prevent losses to farmers,” Kumar said.

“Last year, garlic of 20 millimetre size was bought in Hadauti region; this year it was decided to buy garlic of 25 millimetre size. This is very harsh for farmers since the climate did not allow garlic to grow in size.”

He said, “As garlic has a limited shelf life, farmers are forced to sell their produce at a loss just after harvest. They cannot afford to wait till the time market prices soar.”

Asked about the glut, agriculture department joint director PK Gupta said farmers had cultivated garlic considering it a cash crop but it did not prove to be so since last year.

“Cost of cultivation of garlic came to around Rs 18 per kg; if the manual labour is factored in, the cost will be more. A dip in prices prevented farmers from recovering their cost from garlic sale,” he said.

“A large number of farmers took agricultural land on lease on a high rent in the hope of making profit and recovering the cost, but increase in cost leads to losses.”

Farmers have stored garlic in their houses, hoping that garlic prices will improve. Kumar said, “Less garlic export and fewer garlic-processing units in the region had also added to the price crash.”

Farmers and their organisations have threatened to start agitation if the government purchase dates of garlic are not extended.

First Published: Jun 01, 2018 22:36 IST