Farmers in Prakasam district have switched over to chilli crop in a big way during this kharif and rabi seasons in the wake of the market price for export-quality hybrid variety shooting up to a very high Rs. 12,000 per quintal last season.
But they are now ruing their fate as the price of the variety fell to Rs. 8,000 per quintal coinciding with the plucking season following heavy arrivals into the market. Prolonged dry spell has led to increase in the cost of cultivation and this impacted productivity very much.
Thanks to dwindling inflows into the reservoirs across the Krishna, including Nagarjunasagar, farmers who have been traditionally growing paddy in the NSP command area have also switched over to this commercial crop, which gave decent returns last year when compared to other crops.
As a result, the crop coverage went to a whopping 57,359 hectares, including 39,648 hectares during kharif, as against the normal extent of a mere 31,676 hectares, including 8,760 hectares in rabi, explains Agriculture joint director J. Muralikrishna.
“Even during September last year, when we began cultivation, the market price ruled at Rs. 11,000 per quintal,” recalls a group of farmers in a remote Pamidipadu village, near Korisapadu in Prakasam district.
Tenant farmers in a fix
The tenant farmers are in a most unenvious position as they had shelled out Rs. 30,000 per acre as rent, besides the cultivation cost of over Rs. 12,000 per acre, says a village elder R.Venkata Subba Rao in a conversation with The Hindu .
“We have to meet all the expenses, starting from raising seedlings, application of fertilizers, and de-weeding. The only thing is plucking cost that will come down in view of productivity plummeting to 15 quintals per acre this year as against the normal 25 quintals,” explains a tenant farmer, Ch. Subba Rao, from Krishnamrajuvaripalem, who has raised the hybrid chilli in five acres.
“I have spent Rs. 40,000 per acre to arrange water through tankers in a bid to save the crop,” adds another tenant farmer K. Haribabu, who hoped in vain to source water from the village irrigation tank.
“We have no option but to put the fresh crop in cold storage units hoping for the market to go northwards in the next five to six months,” says yet another farmer Ravinuthala Gopalakrishna, who has decided to store the harvested chilli in a cold storage unit.S. Murali