Falling garlic prices prompt farmers in central India to let their crop rot in fields

Garlic prices in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh have dropped by around 60 per cent between March and May, data from the National Horticulture Research and Development Foundation (NHDRF) showed, promoting farmers to leave their crops in the field.

During this season garlic witnessed bumper harvest and has been incorporated in the state’s Bhavanter Bhugtaan Yojana (BBY), but the prices have only fallen.

According to farmers, garlic used to be sold at Rs 2,500 a quintal earlier. But after the window for selling it under the BBY scheme was opened a few months ago, the prices fell to Rs 800 a quintal.

Though the state government has claimed that overproduction is the reason for such sharp drop in prices, farmers are not willing to buy the argument. Several of them have simply left the crop in their field to rot.

Traders from the area admit to lack of financial liquidity as one of the reasons for garlic glut. The agitated farmers in Malwa, the largest garlic producing region in the state where assembly polls are due later this year, are also blaming demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) for their plight.

The garlic farmers are unable to recover their input costs and, therefore, prefer to throw it away or just leave the crop to rot in the fields rather than selling it at the prevailing low rates of Re 1 to Rs 5 per kg. The transportation costs and other expenses are making it unviable to sell the produce in mandis.

While Neemuch and Mandsaur districts in Madhya Pradesh are the largest garlic producing areas in the state, 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, it is believed.

Shekhar Ghosh is a communications consultant and and former journalist, who has edited and written for publications such as like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today and Outlook.

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