Sunday September 19, 2021

Chilli growers feel the burn of low price in markets

August 01, 2021

HYDERABAD: Chilli producers in Sindh cry out against the falling prices of green chilli in local markets, fearing they might not even recover their cultivation cost.

Reports gathered from the chilli cluster in Sindh showed that farmers did not receive proper rates for their produce even on Eid-ul-Azha, when traditionally the price of the perishable increases due to higher demand.

Last year, retailers sold green chilli at Rs700-800/kg in towns and villages because of a shortage following rain and foods that ruined the crops in many parts of the province.

Some aware growers linked the emerging issue of prices to the recent rain forecast. They said the forecast frightened farmers, who hurriedly picked chilli at an early stage to send the unripe product to major green vegetable market Sultanabad in Mirpurkhas district, which resulted in price drops.

There are two major markets for chilli. Sultanabad in Mirpurkhas deals with green chilli, while the main Kunri market in Umerkot district receives red chilli.

Ghulam Hussain, a small scale chilli farmer from Kaloi area in Tharparkar district, said they had experienced ravaging rain- flood last in 2020, which ruined everything in the field, including chilli and cotton crops.

“Despite destruction of crops we were among luckily farmers, who saved some area and sold 60kg green chilli bags at Rs12,000 or more at Sultanabad market,” he said. Some farmers sold their red chilli product at Rs20,000-27,000/per bag, because the deluge destroyed standing chilli crops in Umerkot, Tharparkar, Mirpurkhas and other areas.

This year the rates of green chilli range between Rs800 and Rs1200 per 60kg bag, which does not even recover the cost of cultivation, tractor, use of chemical input and water, Hussain said. Farmers pay Rs400-500/maund for picking, then packing and transportation cost varies area to area, he added.

Chilli Growers Association President Mian Saleem, who belongs to Kunri, the hub of chilli products, pointed out that this year Punjab cultivated chilli, producing both red and green varieties on a wide area. Punjab was supplying it to Karachi and other markets that impacted the prices of Sindh produce negatively.

Dry chilli products were pouring into Karachi markets, which were being sold at Rs6,000/bag. “Previously we had data of an old cluster of chilli cultivation area covering 100,000—150,000 acres of land. Now farmers in some other parts of Sindh have also cultivated this crop, but we do not have exact data of the total chilli crop cover area and productivity,” he admitted.

Giving his reaction over faulty and hybrid seeds, he said, “We may lose our traditional variety ‘round chilli’, locally known as longi or Kunri-1. This variety has importance in the country and foreign markets because of its aroma and taste.”

The hybrid chilli varieties might soon replace the traditional longi.

Measuring the productivity of longi, he said it gives 40-50 maund per acre in normal situation, if receiving water. On the other hand, hybrid varieties produce 80-100 maund per acre. “The difference between the traditional and new varieties is taste and aroma, which hybrid varieties do not have,” Saleem added.

The rates of green and red chilli are different. But if prices of green chillies decline, farmers leave the produce out in the field for changing colour to sell as dried chilli. This helps them recover the cost of cultivation.

Usually, red chilli comes to the main Kunri market at the end of August and continues business up to December, January, February and March, depending on the situation. There are some growers, who sow early varieties of chilli. For these varieties, growers get Rs10,000-12,000/bag at the Kunri market. But this price does not sustain for a long time.

Proper business of red chilli always starts in September when the main Kunri market receives higher quantities of red chilli, which attracts traders and food companies from across the country to purchase for supplying to major markets and processing units.

Sindh Growers Alliance (SGA) President Nawab Zubair Talpur, who also belongs to Umerkot district, said agriculture was being neglected by the Sindh government, which allows trade of substandard seeds and chemical input. This approach has badly affected soil fertility as well as crop productivity, forcing producers to live in uncertainty.

For example, 10 packets of seed are required for one acre of chilli. Farmers have to pay Rs1,300-1,400 for each packet. In case of low germination farmers have to face losses.

Chilli producers also linked the price situation to the closing of export routes, due to the political situation as well as pandemic restrictions.

This year rainy weather started in June and still continues. This might impact chilli drying in some parts of the province.

Sajad Morio, who deals with food products in the markets, said water scarcity, dry weather and strong winds also had a negative impact on the crops during the flowering stage. Thus, it might have low productivity in many areas.

He said the main Kunri market has larger drying fields for red chilli, where the product might be safe from rain or cloudy weather. Chilli growers hope to get the right prices for their produce not only to recover their production cost, but also to sustain their families.