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Rajamahendravaram: Banana farmers stare at bleak future

Rajamahendravaram: Banana farmers stare at bleak future
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Farmers bringing banana to Rajamahendravaram market by two-wheelers
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Rajamahendravaram: Thousands of banana farmers who are also the vendors of the fruit in East Godavari district are in dire straits due to the lockdown ...

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Rajamahendravaram: Thousands of banana farmers who are also the vendors of the fruit in East Godavari district are in dire straits due to the lockdown imposed in the wake of Coronavirus scare. Many are leaving their banana bunches in their fields or in the markets as no one is there to purchase the fruit. Even if someone is willing, at a low, very low price, there is no transport facility to move the crop to the markets.

It is a common feature in the district, mainly in the Konaseema area, hundreds of banana farmers are seen cycling their way to banana markets Ravulapalem, Tuni, Ambajipeta, Rajamahendravaram, Gokavaram and Eleswaram, etc from the fields carrying 10 to 12 banana clusters.

Rs 2 crore worth of banana transactions. One of those crops which could be termed as a lifeline in these parts is banana, not just fruit, but also flower, trunk and leaves are also marketable commodities. A cursory estimate tells us that the crop worth at least Rs 2 crore is rotting in the fields from March 22 in the district soon after the lockdown has been imposed.

A farmer begins his day early, say around 4 am itself, by balancing the clusters on either side of the bicycle so as to reach the markets by 6 am sharp. The price of the crop was quite good before the lockdown and the farmers were happy. They were expecting good returns for their hard work this year.

Venkateswara Rao, a farmer from Eleswaram, is heartbroken now. "Natural calamity is something we are all used to. I don't know what to call this one? Is it some kind of a curse? If so, for whose fault? Why should we suffer due to the lockdown. We go by our cycles and sell our produce in the markets. Authorities should have intervened before imposing the lockdown. We in no way are spreading the virus.

Isn't it so?" Chittibabu, a wholesaler from Ravulapalem, said: "This is unfair on the part of the government. They are talking of aqua farmers. What about us? We will be ruined if the government does not step in and help us."

A common question making rounds is: "Why does not the government declare these crops as essential commodities too and ensure smooth movement and sale of the same."

A banana cluster consists of 120 to 150 bananas. Before lockdown, the cost of each cluster of Chakkerakeli variety of bananas was Rs 300 and it has fallen to below Rs 100 and the price of Karpura Chakkerakeli also has came down to Rs 50 from Rs 150.

A banana farmer of Kadiyam, L Kama Raju, said that he has incurred a loss of Rs 1 lakh because of lockdown. The yield was left untouched in the orchards. This is a common sight.

In the East Godavari district banana is under cultivation in an area of 13,000 hectares out of which 8,000 hectares is in Konaseema area alone.

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