Pfutsero farmers in distress: Crops left to rot in fields - Eastern Mirror
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Pfutsero farmers in distress: Crops left to rot in fields

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By Reyivolü Rhakho Updated: Aug 13, 2020 1:45 am
A portion of spoiled cabbages along with other vegetables at a market in Kohima. (EM Images)

Reyivolü Rakho
Kohima, Aug. 12 (EMN): Farmers in Nagaland have suffered huge losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic-induced lockdowns as their ready-to-harvest vegetables and fruits either rot or were eaten by rats and insects, while the leftovers could not be taken to the markets for sale.

Pfutsero, a sub-division under Phek district, which is blessed with weather that is suitable for various types of vegetation and known for its abundant cabbages, was not spared by the pandemic.

Farmers shared how their lives were badly affected in a matter of few months due to the imposition of total lockdowns and the uncertainty caused by the crisis.

A 31-year-old farmer and home-based vendor, Mesutso-ii Kreo, said that lot of farmers have lost in terms of lakhs this year, leaving them in distress.

During the harvest season of cabbages and other vegetables, farmers could neither go to their farms nor export their vegetables to Kohima and Dimapur, which were their main markets besides Pfutsero. As a result, cabbages and vegetables were left to rot. Just a week-long total lockdown badly affected the farmers.

The Pfutsero administration recently imposed a total lockdown for one week after Covid-19 positive cases were detected in the region.

Wekedou, a cabbage farmer in Pfutsero, shared that his cabbages were left to rot in the field and potatoes were eaten up by rats, as they could not harvest on time due to the lockdown.

He said that he used to generate an income of about INR 1,50,000 from selling his produce in the past but could not earn even INR one lakh this year.

The father of six children shared that he would apply for loan to manage the family as that is the only option. He added that he will soon start cultivating winter crops like tapioca, cabbage, garlic, etc. and will try to earn some income in the next harvest.

“If we don’t cultivate them (vegetables), we will not be able to eat anything (sic),” he said, adding that whether lockdown continues or not, we have to work hard and earn for our living’.

Another farmer named Avilhou Lomi said that his family couldn’t make any profit from this year hard labour due to the lockdown. ‘Vegetables that were cultivated have gone to waste and could hardly generate 50% of previous year’s total income,’ he said.

Usually, he cultivates cabbages, coriander and carrots, and sells them to manage his family and his child’s education. But this year, the vegetables were left to rot in the fields.

“Whatever was left, we ate them,” he said.

‘Majority of the farmers suffered huge losses in Pfutsero and there are people who were badly affected,’ he added.

Marketing window shut

After the Nagaland State Transport buses stopped plying, vegetable vendors started transporting the vegetables bought from the farmers by hiring vehicles for INR 10,000 per trip to Dimapur.

“As long as we are getting a few hundreds of profit and are able to manage the family, the hiring cost doesn’t stop us from selling the vegetables,” a vegetable vendor said.

But now, this small marketing window is also shut due to the increase in Covid-19 cases in Dimapur and Kohima. Even family members don’t want traders to travel these commercial places as they will be put under quarantine on their return.

‘On the other hand, if we don’t sell vegetables, than what will we eat or put on the table? We are in a very stressed condition,’ said a mother of two.

Some street vendors shared that they didn’t have enough money to even buy a packet of salt (1 kg).

Before the pandemic, farmers would sell their vegetables to vendors at local markets too, but these markets in Pfutsero are now shut down.

Kreo, who is also the general secretary of Self Employed Women’s Association, Pfutsero, asked: “If vendors don’t buy farmers’ vegetables, who will buy them?” She added that farmers do not have markets besides street vendors.

Some distressed farmers and vendors had tried to generate alternative income by selling home-made puri, chana, etc. but people were hesitant to buy them for fear of getting infected with the virus, it was informed.

“I think, because of coronavirus, people will die of hunger,” she said, adding that majority of the farmers and vendors are not aware of various government schemes meant for them.

She appealed to the government to provide alternative arrangements for farmers in distress.

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By Reyivolü Rhakho Updated: Aug 13, 2020 1:45:33 am