For chilli farmers in Telangana, it’s not scarcity but abundance that has made their situation desperate. With good rains providing a bountiful harvest, and chilli output rising by nearly 14%, farmers are facing a crisis, as insufficient demand has sent prices into a deep downward plunge.
On Friday, the frustration of chilli farmers in Khammam city turned into ferocious anger. As the anger exploded, several dozen farmers went on a rampage, vandalising the Market Yard Office.
Visuals show a number of farmers smashing the entire interior of the office to pieces.
Besides breaking chairs, tables, doors, computers and windows, some of the protesters even smashed ACs and pulled down fans.
They also dragged much of the furniture to the entrance of the office, where they proceeded to set it all on fire.
The farmers were upset with the falling prices of chillies in the market, which had reportedly dropped to Rs 3,000 per quintal, compared to the Rs 10,000 per quintal that they were demanding as the minimum amount required for them to break even on production costs.
The farmers also said that the current system, in which most of their crop is bought up by middlemen who buy low and sell high, puts them at a further loss. This makes the struggle to break even much harder.
Lamenting that the government had failed to buy their crops and help them out of their crisis, the farmers also burnt large piles of chilli crops that they had brought with them.
The police later stepped in and brought the situation under control.
The incident in Khammam comes just a week after farmers in Andhra Pradesh resorted to burning mounds of chillies on the Chennai-Kolkata Highway in Prakasam District.
The chilli farmers’ protests have been ongoing for almost a month, and farmers hope to persuade the Union Central Government to intervene and help them survive the crisis.
Telangana Irrigation Minister T Harish Rao has already requested the Centre to provide 50% assistance under the Market Investment Fund, which will help to stabilise the farmers’ income.
However, the Centre has reportedly told the state that it couldn't extend financial assistance, as it was overburdened with several other states facing the same problem.
GV Ramanjeneyulu, a scientist at the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, had earlier told TNM that the drastic fall in prices is a temporary phenomenon. However, he clarified, this is no reason for the state and centre to rest easy. “This drop in prices is only temporary. As soon as the harvest season is over, the prices of chillies will go up. And if the government does not do anything, there will be a repeat of these riots the next year again during this time.”