With 74 coronavirus cases, Kurnool has recorded the highest number of cases in the state.

In COVID-19 hotspot Kurnool losses mount for onion farmersImage for representation/PTI
Coronavirus Coronavirus Tuesday, April 07, 2020 - 20:44

Hundreds of onion farmers in Kurnool district, Andhra Pradesh are staring at an uncertain future and face imminent losses. The national lockdown and the subsequent declaration of several areas in Kurnool, including Kurnool town, as ‘containment zones’ to curb the spread of coronavirus has broken their supply chain. The disruption in the supply chain has led to a significant fall in onion prices. 

Presently, Kurnool has harvested onions in 1,500 hectares of land and farmers are unsure of what to do with the produce. 

“Two weeks ago, onions were sold for Rs 4,000 per quintal. Now, the prices have dropped to Rs 600 per quintal,” laments Chandra Uliveni, a farmer from Hosur village in Pattikonda mandal. 

Chandra has sold 260 bags of onions. He cultivated onions in one-and-a-half-acre by incurring an expenditure of Rs 1.5 lakh. “After selling the produce at such a low price, I could only meet the transportation expense,” Chandra says. 

Another farmer, Keshappa, who produced onions in five acres says, “My produce is ready for harvest but since there is no demand for onions at this point, I have been told not to bring the produce to the market,” he says, adding, “Now, I don’t know what to do.” 

Keshappa spent nearly Rs 3 lakh as production cost.

Farmers from Kurnool usually sell onions at the Tadepalligudem market yard. However, as markets have refused to buy the produce, farmers have been forced to sell them at rythu bazaars— a farmers’ market that eliminates the role of the middlemen. 

However, as of Monday, eight places in Kurnool— Kurnool Town, Nandyal, Kodumuru, Nandikotkuru, Banaganapalle, Atmakur, Gadamemula, Paanyam and Auku— have been declared ‘containment zones’. As a result, a strict lockdown has been imposed and the rythu bazaar in Kurnool town has been shut. 

Kurnool district in Andhra Pradesh has recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases. According to the latest figures, the district has 74 of the state’s total of 304 cases. 

While farmers seek the intervention of the government to address the crisis, the government is yet to act. “With Rs 600 (per quintal), we can’t even recover our expenditure. We should earn at least Rs 2,000 per quintal to sustain ourselves,” Chandra says.

Speaking to TNM, Raghunath Reddy, Assistant Director (AD) of Horticulture, Kurnool, says, “This is peak season for onion harvesting. Though the demand would be less during this season due to supply of onions from Gujarat and Maharashtra, the present rates are too low. It is a double blow for the farmers.”

“Until last week, there was no transportation and hence, the supply chain was completely broken. This led to the present crisis for farmers,” the officer says.

The AD suggests that farmers store their produce in the government storage facilities for four to five months and sell them when the market price is stable. 

Not all farmers, however, can afford this facility, he admits. The storage facility, to accommodate 25 metric tonnes of produce, costs Rs 1.75 lakh. The government provides a subsidy of 60% to the farmers. For farmers belonging to the marginalised Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the subsidy is 75%.