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March 26, 2020

Growers face losses as retailers collect higher profits

Business

March 26, 2020

HYDERABAD: Zaffar Shah, a grower, producing tomatoes in the coastal area of Keti Bunder, Thatta district, did not know about the increase in price of the product and allowed herds of camels, cows, and goats to eat away the remaining crop so he can get the land ready for the next immediate crop.

He was disappointed by the abrupt decline in the price of tomato in major markets, and instead of waiting to sell the produce at lower rates; he discarded the entire crop on four acres. It is not only Shah, who has discarded the crop. Many farmers in the deltaic area have done the same.

He said some of the area farmers took the product to Karachi, where they were compelled to sell it at meager rates, which could not even recover the cost of picking, packing and transportation of the product. Since then, many farmers have allowed cattle to graze their tomato fields.

Information gathered by The News from different areas revealed that tomato was being sold at Rs5-Rs10/kg in local markets of Badin, Thatta and Sujawal districts, the producing areas. While customers in other areas, including Hyderabad city neighbourhoods and Matiari said hardly two days ago, tomato was being sold at Rs100/12kg bag in the market.

Now it was being sold at Rs60/Rs100/kg by vendors in different areas. Coastal districts Thatta, Sujawal and Badin produce vegetables, mainly tomato, chili, cucumber, ridged gourd, apple gourd, and melon.

Zaffar Shah said the rate of another valuable crop, chili was also dropped to Rs2,000/maund from Rs5,000, which was noticed a few days back. Coastal growers were expecting to recover losses they faced during the previous years due to water scarcity and diseases by selling chili.

Presently, Shah is taking care of high-quality melon he has cultivated on six acres. Traditionally, coastal farmers produce melons for the market on the occasion of Ramazan. He was expecting to sell melons in the market after a week, but once again the situation seems unpredictable due to supply chain disruptions in the wake of the lockdown.

He said that last year, coastal farmers had lost the melon crop due to diseases. This year they were hoping to recover those losses, but the situation was disappointing after the government announced lockdown to counter the coronavirus.

Nawab Zubair Talpur, president, Sindh Growers Alliance (SGA), said they were ready to comply with the government’s decision to stay at home, “but the government should let the growers produce and supply the products to avoid food shortage”.

He accused the government of creating problems by isolating producers, who could not acquire the necessary input for the crop, and to later sell it in the market.

Farmers lamented a full lockdown, as they said that a full lockdown meant hurdles in continuing food production, restriction in supply to consumer markets, and limited access for consumers.

They said that in the current lockdown, perishable commodities like tomatoes were being wasted in the field, while consumers had to pay high rates for the remaining supply to maintain a healthy diet.

Prof Muhammad Ismail Kumbhar, a researcher, associated with Sindh Agriculture University (SAU) Tandojam, suggested opening of local markets at union council level in all areas, where traders might arrange vegetables and other food items for sale. “It can be a better way at this moment to provide access to customers to buy food items they need at reasonable prices.”

Looking at the instability of food prices, he said, “On one side the prices of agriculture commodities have dropped unimaginably, affecting producers, while on the other hand, traders and retailers are exploiting people in some areas.”

This should be controlled by fixing prices of all food items, and ordering sellers to comply with the orders, he said.