Farmers of Madhya Pradesh's Mandsaur district are burning their garlic crop as what was supposed to be a major source of their income this year has not yielded the desired result.
Prices of garlic have plunged from Rs 25-30 per kilo last year, to between Rs 2 and 5 per kilo this year. A pittance, considering each farmer has spent anywhere between Rs 35 and 40 per kilo cultivating the crop over the last 6-7 months. They say that if you throw in the additional cost of storage, burning it is a better option.
Madhya Pradesh and neighbouring Rajasthan make up for nearly 80 percent of India’s garlic production.
In Rajasthan's key garlic producing region of Kota, 43-year-old Kuldeep Malav from Badgaon village faces a big dilemma.
“It took us six months to grow this garlic. We have stored it for six months, and now, the price we are getting is Rs 2-3 per kg. I will try and sell and if that doesn't happen, I will either feed it to animals or throw it away,” Kuldeep said.
Kuldeep's neighbour Ramkishan Malav is on the same boat. He is staring at a loss of over Rs 8 lakh this season, and blames a lot of this on the Centre and the state government.
Ramkishan said, “Governments promised us that they will procure our garlic at Rs 3,500-4,000 per quintal. That's why we stored it for this long. Otherwise we would have sold it earlier and at that time we would have got atleast Rs 25 per kilo. Government cheated us.”
There are multiple reasons for this crisis. For one, the acreage of garlic has increased by 13-14 percent in the last three years, resulting in a bumper crop this year. Then there were the export curbs imposed on garlic which meant that farmers were not able to avail the higher international prices that prevailed.
The bigger problem came from the imports of garlic bulbs from China, which have bigger cloves and are easier to peel and use — making them preferred by Indian consumers.
Pushan Sharma, Director at Crisil Research said, “The estimate is that this has affected 1.5-2 lakh farmers. Notional revenue loss is around Rs 6,200 crore.”
Setting up processing units at local levels can solve this problem by a huge margin. Experts say processing units which will convert garlic into garlic powder and paste will increase the shelf life of the produce and improve the negotiating power of farmers. Over the years, every government has promised help in setting up such processing units but none of those promises have been kept.
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