Not So Hot Any­more

India Today - - STATES - By Amar­nath K. Menon

For the first time in a decade, I will lose money de­spite a good har­vest,” rues K. Up­pala­iah who grows red chill­ies with pretty names like Meenakshi and Vaish­navi on his 2.5 acre farm in Telangana’s Waran­gal district. Cur­rent prices at the Enu­ma­mula mar­ket are Rs 3,000 a quin­tal. It was Rs 12,000 last year, Rs 15,000 in 2015.

Cul­ti­vat­ing chilli is ex­pen­sive. It takes Rs 1.5 lakh an acre in­clud­ing the Rs 50,000 to pick the chill­ies. For him, and many oth­ers like him in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, it just isn’t adding up de­spite a bumper har­vest. Traders are re­fus­ing to buy the crop, there is no mar­ket in­ter­ven­tion mech­a­nism to res­cue farm­ers and chilli prices are in free fall. There have been an­gry farmer protests, in­clud­ing in­stances where mar­ket yards have been torched.

Iron­i­cally, it was the state that had en­cour­aged farm­ers to switch from cot­ton to chill­ies. In Andhra alone, the acreage un­der chilli went up from 350,000 to 470,000, rais­ing pro­duc­tion to 14 mil­lion bags (40 kg each).

No­tably, In­dia ac­counts for 38 per cent of the world’s chilli pro­duc­tion, and Telangana and AP grow half of that. The Chan­drababu Naidu govern­ment has now set aside Rs 200 crore to of­fer farm­ers as com­pen­sa­tion—Rs 1,500 per quin­tal for a max­i­mum of 20 quin­tals per farmer. The in­cen­tive, how­ever, is only if a farmer was forced to sell his crop for less than Rs 6,500 a quin­tal. Telangana is mean­while look­ing to­wards Delhi for a bailout. It may be too late by then for farm­ers like Up­pala­iah.

NO BITE Un­sold chilli sacks pile up at the Enu­ma­mula mar­ket in Waran­gal

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