Friday, November 25, 2011

Smuggled Veggies Put NE Farmers In A Soup

In India, normally, the words like 'illegal dumping' bring in mind cheap (and no good) electronic products made in Taiwan or China. But, did you ever  hear of  illegal dumping of vegetables? Or, large scale dumping pushing a farmer to the corner, forcing him to kill himself? Well, its happening for real, where else, but in North east India. And here is the story:

Tons of vegetables, smuggled in from Bangladesh, are pouring into local markets of Tripura – a landlocked state in the north-eastern region of India. As a result, local farmers are finding it difficult to sell their produce. 

The smuggling is unchecked and ever increasing, thanks to a 856 km long porous border.

According to official records, the state has 26698 Ha of land under vegetable cultivation. Of that potato is cultivated in 5797 ha. The cost of production, per ha is Rs 40 -50 thousand.  To recover their production cost, farmers must sell the potatoes at Rs 12-15 a kg. But this season, before the harvest began, the markets have already been flooded with smuggled potatoes from Bangladesh. This has forced the farmers to drastically cut their price to Rs 4-5 kg, which has incurred heavy losses. 

However, potato farmers are not the only ones in trouble. Several other vegetables are also being smuggled in, which include cauliflower, eggplant/brinjal, cabbage, green chili and even coriander leaves. Since none of the local markets have a cold storage, local producers, most of whom are poor marginal farmers, are selling them at throwaway price, as they have no other options available.

The situation is aggravating the woes of the farmers who already saw a heavy drop in their paddy production earlier this year, thanks to an erratic weather and increased price of seeds and fertilizer. More than 600 ha of land in the state’s southern districts were left uncultivated, as farmers found it impossible to buy seeds, fertilizer or  water pumps for irrigation. 

Over 200 farmers have committed suicide in past 1 year in the state, which has largely gone unreported. 

Now, one question that obviously rises is, what is the government doing to check the situation? The answer is, nothing.
 The state government is currently facing acute financial crisis, so, it can neither help the farmers by buying their produce, nor can it build infrastructure like cold storages. The chief minister of the state, Manik Sarkar, last week appealed to the prime minister for Rs 14,600 crore (USD 2.8 billion) as an urgent bailout package. 

Whether or not the bailout will come is another issue. But meanwhile, the sufferings of farmers are increasing with every passing day.

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