By admin       2017-11-30

Gangaram Patel, a 50-year-old farmer at Kalyanpar village in Morbi district, grows cotton and groundnut on four hectares of his land. For the past 22 years, he has been a BJP voter. However, this time, Mr. Patel says, he will change his voting preference because the party has done little for farmers. “In this area, we have always voted for the BJP but not now. We farmers have been ruined by this government. They are only concerned about some industrialists,” an angry Mr. Patel says, standing on his farm on the Morbi-Rajkot highway. The main issue is the poor prices of cotton and groundnut for the past three years. “For the past several years, we are not getting remunerative prices; so farming has become a burden. Today, cotton fetches ₹800 to ₹900 per 20 kg, while our production cost is almost ₹1,000, if we include labour and input costs,” he says. Farm distress is emerging as one of the important factors in the Assembly elections in Gujarat. The State is the largest producer of cotton and groundnut, which take up the largest cultivation area. In the current year, cotton has been cultivated on 26.41 lakh hectares and the expected production is 1.25 crore bales. Groundnut has been grown on 16 lakh hectares and 26 lakh tonnes is expected. Paresh Ujaria, a farmer with about 1.5 hectare of land and local Youth Congress activist, says farmers in the cotton belt are in distress. “The prices of seeds, pesticides, fertilizers, power and labour have gone up. Today, one labourer charges ₹300 a day, while prices of our produce have stagnated for the past several years, making farming a loss-making proposition,” he says. Babubhai Vasoya, a 52-year-old farmer at Thebachda village near Rajkot, echoes the same sentiments. “I want to ask Modi [Prime Minister Narendra Modi] where is the ₹1,500 [per 20 kg] for cotton that he promised in 2014? In 2017, we are not getting what we used to get in 2011-12 when cotton price was ₹1,200 to ₹1,300 per 20 kg,” Mr. Vasoya says. Gauravsinh Jadeja of the village says farm distress is sweeping across the region. “Similar is the situation in every district of Saurashtra. You go to Jamnagar, Amreli, Bhavnagar, Botad and you will see poor farmers crying for better prices for their produce,” he says. In North Gujarat, farmers face a similar predicament as they are not realising remunerative prices for potato, a major crop in Banaskantha, Patan and Gandhinagar. “Farmers are forced to sell potato at ₹2 to ₹3 a kg against their production cost of ₹5 and cold storage costs. They need at least ₹10 a kg to make a little profit,” says Ramanbhai Patel, a farmer and cold storage owner from Deesa in Banaskantha.

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