The price of banana, one of the major horticulture crops in Anantapur district, has fallen sharply despite the total acreage coming down due to incessant rains during the monsoon and the lack of market for close to eight months during COVID-19 lockdown period.
Farmers are left with no choice but to leave large quantities of bananas to ripen on the plant on-farm and allow them to rot instead of incurring expenditure on cutting and transportation of the produce to the market.
Obulapuram and Kadavakallu in Putlur mandal are known for producing the best quality of bananas that are exported the world over and supplied to major retail chains within the country by several contract farming companies.
A visit to B. Lakshmi Narsimhudu’s farm in Obulapuram showed several heaps of rotten bananas scattered all over and some ready-to-eat ripened fruit bunches hanging from the plants. Labourers were carrying large green bunches to be loaded on to a lorry hired by a local trader for supply to a market in Bengaluru.
“I have been offered ₹4.25 per kg and am glad that someone is taking at least some quantity so that I can retrieve some investment (more than ₹3 lakh) on my three-acre plot and repay the debts to the fertilizer shops and other lenders borrowed at extortionist interest rates,” Mr. Narsimhudu said.
The produce from the first crop was offered ₹9,600 per tonne and the price fell to ₹4,000 to ₹4,500 during the second crop, he explains.
Another farmer from Kadavakallu K. Srinivasulu said: “While many companies and traders offer to buy our produce in the initial phase, after eight months when the fruits are ready for cutting, they point out some blemishes and reduce the price drastically. We have not other option but to sell only to them at their price. If I am adamant, none of the 11 major groups operating in this region buy from me. Delay of even a couple of days will lead to the ripening of some bunches, which will totally make our farm ineligible for cutting and purchase.”
Some of the export-oriented companies, which bought the produce at ₹14 a kg last season, have not offered more than ₹11.50 per kg in the current cutting season that began in December and will last for another 20 days.
Deputy Director APMIP B. Subba Rayudu, who also looks after the Horticulture Department in the district, said that four companies have been procuring the proeduce actively for exports and large internal markets, along with some small traders.