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Crashing garlic prices cause discontent among MP farmers

The agitated farmers in Malwa, the largest garlic producing region in the State, are also blaming the demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) for their plight.

Garlic farmers in Madhya Pradesh are on a protest path, saying they are being forced to throw away the produce instead of selling it due to a sharp plunge in wholesale prices to as low as ₹1 per kg.

Some blame the crash in prices to “a bumper crop” this season, coupled with limited buying interest from traders due to lack of liquid money available with them.

The agitated farmers in Malwa, the largest garlic producing region in the State where Assembly Polls are due later this year, are also blaming the demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) for their plight.

They protested at the Shamgarh vegetable market in the neighbouring Mandsaur district on Sunday over the plunging prices of garlic. MP is one of the leading producers of the key kitchen staple in the country.

“The garlic producing farmers are unable to recover their input costs and therefore, they prefer to throw it away than selling it at the prevailing low rates of ₹1 to ₹5 per kg,” a cultivator from Darukheda village, Suryabhan Singh Bana, said. The transportation costs and other expenses are making it unviable to sell the produce in mandis (markets), farmers said.

According to mandi sources, the garlic crop was set at a rate of ₹50-80 per kg in the Neemuch vegetable market in January this year, but prices have been on a downward trend since then. In January last year the rate was ₹30-50 per kg, while in November-December it was ₹5-20 per kg.

“Though the state government has inducted the garlic crop under the direct benefit transfer scheme, ‘Bhavantar’, farmers are not getting the adequate price for their produce which has resulted in a resentment,” Madhya Pradesh Kisan Sabha chairman Jasvinder Singh said.

He demanded that the government provide a minimum support price (MSP) for the entire crop produced by a farmer so that they get their due for the hard work.

Mr. Bana said when he came to the Neemuch vegetable market on Sunday to sell his “bumper garlic crop”, he got just ₹2 per kg for his produce, while on May 4 the garlic fetched a mere ₹1 per kg at the Shamgarh mandi in Mandsaur. “I don’t have an option except to throw it (garlic crop) away,” he lamented.

Hardip Singh Dang, Congress MLA from Suvasra in Mandsaur district, said the farmers have been waiting in market for last four-five days to sell their produce but they have no option but to throw it away when the rates have come down to as low as ₹1 per kg.

The agitated farmers also staged a protest before the Shamgarh mandi office over the issue, he said.

A garlic trader in Neemuch S Choudhry, blamed the “economic slowdown because of the GST and demonetisation” for the present crisis. He said Neemuch and Mandsaur are the largest garlic producing areas in the state, but there are only three processing industries there.

“A majority of the crop goes to Gujarat’s Mahuva area where maximum number of garlic processing plants are situated, but the units there are closing because of the economic slowdown as money has been stuck in the market,” he claimed.

When traders do not have money to buy a crop and there is a bumper production, the prices are bound to fall, he said. The BJP’s Neemuch district media in-charge, Kamlesh Mantri, also said there is a “slowdown in garlic trade as a huge amount of money of traders was stuck in Gujarat which resulted in the current situation.”

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