Bengal gram growers in distress as market crashes

By TheHindu on 13 Mar 2017 | read

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) regime has put paid to hopes of Bengal gram growers in Prakasam district of realising a decent return for their produce for the third year in succession.

The “anti-farmer” EXIM policy of the Union government has resulted in over 21 lakh quintals of exportable variety of Bengal gram lying in cold storages in the wake of the alleged indiscriminate imports from Australia, Canada and Iran, lamented farmers at a meeting called by the Andhra Pradesh Rythu Sangam (APRS) here on Monday.

Farmers, who have cultivated Bengal gram in 2.50 lakh acres in the district, are clueless as to how they will wriggle out of the distressing situation, as banks have issued notices to auction their produce. “The situation has turned from bad to worse, with the price of the principal pulse crop in the district plummeting to as low as Rs. 2,700 a quintal as against Rs. 8,000 which prevailed three years ago,” said APRS-led Tenant Farmers’ Association State secretary N. Ranga Rao.

“As a short-term measure, the State government should come out with a Rs. 200-crore market intervention scheme to bail out the growers, as it is a question of life and death for them,” said YSRC Farmers’ Wing district convenor Mareddy Subba Reddy.

“As a long-term measure, the Centre should explore new markets for the exportable KAK-II and Mexican bold varieties cultivated in the district as an alternative to tobacco,” said APRS district vice-president K. Koteswara Rao.

He added that farmers could continue cultivation only if the Narendra Modi government implemented the M.S. Swaminathan panel report. Ongole Agriculture Market Committee chairman A.Ganasyam underscored the need to strengthen marketing network and regulating crop size.

Meanwhile, Prakasam district TDP president D. Janardhana Rao promised farmers to arrange for a meeting with Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and Agriculture Minister P. Pulla Rao and to ensure that stocks were lifted by offering a bonus price to offset losses.

TDP ryots wing district president K. Venkaiah called for a united struggle cutting across party lines to put pressure on Union and State governments to intervene in the market on their behalf.

The meeting resolved to impress upon the State government to take up the issue with Union Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitaraman, APRS district secretary D. Gopinath said.

The farmers also pressed for a minimum of Rs. 3,500 a quintal for the local variety, Rs. 4,500 for KAK-II variety and Rs. 5,000 for the Mexican bold variety.

Central, State Govts intervention sought to bail them out

S. Murali