Farmers in Maharashtra are getting restive over the cash shortage that has led to a drastic drop in vegetable prices. Farmers have not only begun distributing vegetables free of cost among consumers to prevent them from going waste, but on Monday they also staged ‘rasta roko’ demonstrations in Karad near Pune.
“Demonetisation has affected farmers badly. There is no cash in the market and traders are refusing to buy our goods. So, farmers have stopped bringing vegetables to the market. The government is responsible for this situation and should compensate the farmers for their losses,” Baliraja Shetkari Sanghatana president Punjabrao Patil said. The government should also waive off the crop loans of farmers in the state since they are not in a position to make any repayments, he added.
On Sunday, members of the Sanghatana met Maharashtra revenue minister Chandrakant Patil, gifting him free vegetables as a mark of protest. The farmers also plan to stage demonstrations outside banks on Tuesday. Punjabrao Patil said since these are perishable crops, the farmers have no option but to sell at distress prices. Some of them have even stopped plucking the produce in the field since they do not have the funds to make payments for casual labour, he said.
According to him, the minister assured farmers of some positive steps from the government. Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis last week led an all-party delegation to meet Union finance minister Arun Jaitley in New Delhi to discuss the problems being faced by the District Central Cooperative Banks (DCCBs). “We requested Jaitley to consider relaxing the restrictions imposed on the DCCBs. The decision is causing hardship to farmers and impacting the rural economy,” the minister said.
Tomato growers in the state have also demanded compensation from the government due to falling prices. On Monday, wholesale tomato prices fell to an all-time low of R1 per kg, averaging at R3 per kg at Pimpalgaon, Nashik — one of the biggest tomato markets in the state.
Shriram Gadhave, president of the Vegetable Growers Association of India, said there is a big drop in prices since there is no demand. The overproduction of tomatoes in the country, coupled with the demonetisation effect, has meant that farmers in rural areas have been forced to
sell their produce at R1 per kg or even less. The average price for tomatoes in Nashik district for the entire month was at R2.76 per kg. Last year during the same period, it was close to R15.5 per kg.
The lack of currency in rural areas has meant that there are no buyers. Since the note ban has been announced by the government, there have been several instances of farmers being forced to throw away their produce since they are not getting the right rates, he said. Only a few instances are reported in the media, he pointed out.
According to Diliprao Bankar, chairman, Pimpalgaon Agriculture Produce Committee, since the note ban, traders from across the country have all gone back to their states without buying anything from Pimpalgaon, he said.
Traders from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, he said, were particularly affected, as many of them are poor and do not have bank accounts from which they could have made cashless transactions. This has shrunk the pool of demand in Pimpalgaon to only traders in Maharashtra who tend to be better off and at least have bank accounts.
Punjabrao Patil said the future plan of the agitation would be decided on the steps taken by the government. He hoped that farmers would not have to take to the street again.