Ranchi, Jan. 5: Shivnarayan Sahu no longer worries about fodder for his livestock. He feeds them tomatoes.
Manohar Gope had sown peas over two acres of his ancestral property and nurtured the crop with care. But he has not bothered to harvest the ripe green peas.
But the milch cows of Sahu can’t eat all the tomatoes, cabbages and peas the Ranchi farmer has produced, forcing him to distribute the vegetables free to villagers or “sell” them at rock-bottom prices.
Farmers in Jharkhand are grappling with a problem of plenty, which has driven vegetable prices down.
The farmers are now pinning hopes on the “wedding season” after the Sankranti festival on January 14.
The festival marks the end of kharmas (inauspicious month) and heralds the beginning of weddings which are expected to push up demand as well as prices.
Over the past month, the price of fresh beans has plunged from Rs 12 to Rs 3 a kilo. Tomatoes, which a month ago ruled at Rs 6 to Rs 8 a kg, are being offered at distress prices of 50 paise a kilo in rural areas to Rs 2 in towns. Cabbages are selling at Rs 3 a kg and radish at Rs 2 a kg.
With supply far outstripping demand for all types of vegetables, farmers are unable to find buyers.
Across the rich hinterlands of Ranchi, Singhbhum, Hazaribagh, Dhanbad, Chatra and Palamau, farmers are now refusing to reap crops for want of demand. Farmers said the prices are so poor that they are unable to recover even the cost of ferrying the crop from the fields to the market.
Sahu, who lives at Ormanjhi in Ranchi, said he had despatched more than four quintals of tomatoes to the market, but half remained unsold, forcing him to distribute all unsold stock to the villagers “free”.
The glut is being attributed to the severe cold which shielded the crops against “viruses”. Sahu said insects normally resulted in an annual wastage of at least 20 per cent of the crops. But this time, the damage was much less, paving the way for a bumper harvest.
The same phenomenon had occurred throughout the eastern markets, pushing down demand from places like Calcutta.