Lockdown: Vegetable farmers claim exploitation by middlemenPTI | Mumbai | Updated: 09-04-2020 13:44 IST | Created: 09-04-2020 13:44 IST
The COVID-19 lockdown may have inflated the price of vegetables for the average Mumbaikar, but without access to large markets, vegetable farmers in neighbouring Thane district are forced to sell their produce at throwaway prices to agents and middlemen. Murbad tehsil, located around 60 km from Mumbai, is among the major producers of export-quality okra, with 90 per cent of farmers in 35 villages involved in cultivating the vegetable.
However, in villages of Borgaon (Shindipada), Manivali, Khodpe, Bhadane, Koltan, Wadavali, cultivators are unable to sell the produce at town markets because of lack of transportation due to the lockdown. Farmers are forced to sell theirs crops at throwaway prices to middlemen, who make 10 times more money by supplying the vegetable to the APMC market in Navi Mumbai or to markets in Mumbai and Thane.
While rice is cultivated in the monsoon season, vegetables such as okra, chillies and cucumber are grown in summers in the region. "I am fed up of the lockdown. After all my hard work, I had to sell my crop at Rs 5 per kg to an agent," said 42- year-old Hemant Kharik, one of the many okra cultivators in the area.
"I spent Rs 60,000 to cultivate the crop and I sold the crop for Rs 65,000 and I only made a profit of Rs 5,000. This is a price I get for working hard since December," he said.
Amid the lockdown, farmers have no other option but to depend on agents and middle men, who have access to big markets in the present situation, he claimed, adding that okra was being sold in city markets at an inflated price of Rs 50 per kg. Agents have their own vehicles that fall under essential services category, giving them access to all markets, he said.
The Maharashtra government should take the issue into account and provide some kind of relief to vegetable farmers, he added..