When 110 taluks in the State have been declared drought-hit this year, Gulbarga district, despite having three taluks in the list, Gulbarga, Jewargi and Aland, has somehow managed to do well as far as agriculture is concerned thanks to a relatively better rainfall and a resultant good red gram crop yield.
After a loss of around 60,000 hectares of standing crop in the downpour that lashed in September 2016, red gram still remained largely unaffected on nearly 4 lakh hectares in the district. The yield too is better as compared to the previous year which witnessed one of the worst droughts in the recent times.
“I had grown eight quintals of red gram in four acres last year. This year, I have harvested around 16 quintals in the same land,” said Sharanabasappa, a small farmer from Belur village in Gulbarga taluk. He, however, could not rejoice as the price of the crop dropped in the market.
Though the government has set up red gram procurement centres at Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) yards to purchase the crop directly from farmers at the minimum support price (MSP) of ₹ 5,050, most of the crop is being sold at lower prices to private traders and dal mills.
For instance, 8,123 quintals of red gram was purchased by private parties at the Gulbarga APMC on Tuesday and only 154 quintals were procured at the two procurement centres. These State-established centres have procured only 1,818.50 quintals in the last one week. There are several reasons that force farmers to go to private parties to sell their crop.
First, most of the farmers take hand loans from private traders, dal mill owners and commission agents at up to 4 per cent monthly interest for purchasing agricultural inputs during sowing on the condition that they would sell their crop to the same private parties who exploit the farmers by charging higher interest on the loan and give relatively lower prices for the crop.
Second, farmers feel unsure about quick payments at government- established procurement centres.
The officials at the centre themselves agree that payment may get delayed up to a month as compared to on-the-spot cheque issuance in private trading centres. Maruti Manpade, president of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, blames the government for unsatisfactory price and procurement woes.
“We had sought a minimum support price of ₹ 7,500 per quintal for the crop. The State government recommended ₹ 6,500. But, the Union government announced only ₹ 4,625, plus ₹ 425 incentive. The government is not for safeguarding the interests of the farming community,” he told The Media. The officials associated with procurement should attract farmers by ensuring speedy payment and hassle-free procurement, he added.
He also blamed private parties for exploiting farmers with lower prices and higher interests on the one hand and purchasing the crop directly from farmers to evade taxes and thus causing losses to the Exchequer.
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