Black Diwali for flood and drought affected farmers

Written by ASHOK B SHARMA | New Delhi | Updated: Oct 14 2009, 00:56am hrs
The up coming Diwali is likely to be a Black Diwali for farmers who are feeling the brunt of drought and floods.

Drought has occurred in 299 districts of 12 states in the country and farmers have suffered heavy losses due to failure of monsoon in major parts of the country. In Punjab and in other places farmers resorted to excess withdrawal of groundwater to feed the standing crops and this has resulted increased cost of production.

While drought affected north and parts of central India, floods created havoc in South India and damaged the standing crops, property and took a toll on human life and livestock. In north India the sowing of crops was delayed due to erratic rainfall and delayed arrival of the monsoon and subsequently later the crops suffered the impact of drought. In south India, the crops were comparatively in a better position due to satisfactory rainfall, till they were washed away by floods in some parts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka

According to the latest information available with the National Disaster Management Division estimated loss to crops and property in various parts of the country is Rs 140004.4 lakh Production of major kharif crops like paddy and groundnut are likely to decline. So far the government has done little to bail out the farmers from the impact of drought and floods.

Before the failure of the monsoon the government, following the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) had increased the minimum support prices for both common and grade A varieties of paddy to Rs 100 per quintal. But this is not enough a relief for drought stricken farmers. Paddy is a water intensive crop and the cost of production has increased due to drought. Therefore there is a need to announce bonus price on the declared MSPs for paddy and other crops.

Apart from drought and floods, increased joblessness and wage deflation caused due to the adverse impact of global financial crisis has pushed the farmers to a point of acute crisis. The rising prices of domestic commodities has made the situation worse.

Past experiences show that the farmers do not usually benefit in this situation. When the farm produces arrive at mandis the prices decline and after the procurement is over at mandis prices subsequently rise on hoarding by traders and market manipulators. This year price rise after procurement is over is almost certain as market manipulators may try encash on the situation of lower production due to drought and floods.

The situation of rising domestic prices is made worst by wage deflation caused due to the impact of global financial crisis. The purchasing power of the people is gradually on the decline with increased joblessness, retrenchment and drastic cut in wages and salaries Rural people who wish to migrate to nearby cities are unable to find better prospects due to shrinkage in activities of the construction industry and other areas which absorbs large force of casual labour

Farmers are also consumers of many essential commodities and services, including some agricultural commodities which they do not grow. The rising prices of any group of commodities have cascading effects on other goods and services for which farmers are consumers.

Retail prices of food and agricultural commodities are ruling high. Retail price of sugar has touched a peak of Rs 34 per kg and this situation is particularly due to low sugarcane production in the previous year and subsequent fall in sugar production. In Delhi retail price of different varieties of common rice is ranging between Rs 24 to Rs 30 a kg and that of wheat flour (atta) is Rs 15 a kg. Retail prices of different varieties of pulses (dal) are ranging between Rs 40 to Rs 84 a kg chana at Rs 40 a kg, urad at Rs 72 a kg and moong at Rs 84 a kg. Vegetable prices have skyrocketed potato price is Rs 24 a kg, tomato price is Rs 15 a kg, onion prices are ranging between Rs 18 to Rs 20 a kg, brinjal prices are ranging between Rs 20 to Rs 22 a kg, lemon prices have shot up in the range of Rs 100 to Rs 120 a kg, dhaniya prices are around Rs 80 a kg, price of ginger is Rs 60 a kg, green pea (mattar) prices are ranging between Rs 80 to Rs 90 a kg and prices of cauliflower and cabbage are ruling above Rs 50 a kg.

This situation has not benefitted the farmers who had earlier sold their produces to traders at much lower prices.

The drought situation is unlikely to improve in nort and parts of central India in the immediate future as the monsoon has begun its withdrawal course from September 25. The groundwater levels have deteriorated in many parts of these regions and water storage in many surface reservoirs is low. Only hope for north Indian farmers hinges on a winter rains to boost the prospects of rabi crops The government should therefore initiate immediate contingency measures to bail out farmers from this current crisis.