The Hindu Business Line

UP farmers forced to destroy vegetables

- AMITI SEN

Kirpal Singh stares vacantly at his field brimming with lush green cabbages. Instead of pride there is despair in his eyes. The acute cash squeeze due to demonetisa­tion has driven prices in the Hapur mandi in Uttar Pradesh even below handling costs, leaving Singh with no option but to destroy his entire crop.

“The cabbages have been lying in the field for weeks as there are no buyers. I can’t wait much longer. I have to run a tractor through my field to sow wheat,” Singh told BusinessLi­ne.

Singh and many other farmers are being pushed into taking the drastic step of destroying vegetables as the sowing season for wheat will soon come to an end, and if they don't hurry, the moisture in the soil will dry up, lowering output.

Satyendra, whose field is next to Singh’s, has his own tale of woe. Potatoes lie rotting in his courtyard. Next to the potatoes are sacks of shrivellin­g arbis (colocasia) and peas that have come back from the mandi without finding buyers.

“Notebandi has come as a curse for farmers. There are just no buyers for our vegetables as banks are not disbursing any cash. Prices have fallen below sustenance levels. Our earnings have dropped to near zero,” said Satyendra. The price of cabbage, which ruled at ₹600-₹700 per sack of 80 kg prior to the withdrawal of ₹500/1,000 notes on November 8, has dropped to below ₹100 in the Hapur mandi, say farmers. The story is the same for other vegetables as well.

In the Moradabad mandi, some 100 km away, farmers narrate similar stories . Nooruddin from Sambhalpur village, who is selling carrots at ₹200 per sack of 50 kg, against ₹500 per sack earlier, is an angry man. “We are not only getting very low prices, the payments are being made in ₹10 coins. There is no money to even pay the labourers,” he said.

With no money to pay the school fees of children and buy medicines for the ill, farmers have started selling their assets. “I had two buffaloes and I recently sold one. What does one do when bills have to be paid and seeds and fertiliser­s have to be bought for the next crop,” said Bhajan Lal, another vegetable farmer in a village in Hapur.

On Thursday, angry farmers gathered at the District Magistrate’s office and raised slogans against the government. “Demonetisa­tion has set farmers back by 20 years. It will be difficult to come out of it,” said Rampal Singh.

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