In addition to teaching farmers how to add value to their products, the government should take action to offer fair pricing for agricultural products.
CHENNAI/THANJAVUR: The Tamil Nadu government’s agriculture budget for 2023 is keenly awaited by farmers and others employed in related industries.
Farmers have a wide range of expectations, ranging from an increase in the procurement price for paddy and sugarcane as stated in the DMK election program to a pension plan for farmers once they turn 60 and the creation of a monopoly authority for the production and distribution of fertilizers.
The state administration has held discussions with all interested parties in many locations around the state and has accumulated hundreds of requests and proposals for inclusion in the upcoming agriculture budget.
This year, the demand for establishing a state government-owned crop insurance company and for having an exclusive state government authority for producing and distributing fertilizers to farmers has become more important in addition to the ongoing call for raising the procurement price for paddy and sugarcane.
V Jeevakumar, an agricultural activist from Bhoothalur in Thanjavur, asserted that the state government could manage the production and distribution of fertilizers if it created an exclusive authority. When there is a high demand for fertilizers and an increase in their price, the government shouldn’t delegate responsibility to private businesses, he continued.
Sand mining is being placed haphazardly and might endanger agriculture. Hence, he said, the government should create a board to look after waterways. S. Vimalnathan, secretary of the Tamil Nadu Cauvery Delta Farmers Protection Association, vehemently defended the state government creating its own crop insurance firm and asserted that farmers had long demanded the elimination of the Prime Minister Crop Insurance Program.
KP Perumal, state secretary of Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam, gave justifications for the state government to develop its own crop insurance firm, pointing out that the current companies pay farmers relatively little as insurance claims for crop loss. For instance, the Tamil Nadu government paid the insurance firms Rs. 1,338.89 crores as a premium on behalf of the farmers for the years 2021–2022. Yet, these firms only paid farmers Rs. 481 crores in insurance claims.
On a similar matter, Perumal stated that crop damage from wild animals should be treated as damage from natural disasters, and farmers should receive compensation right away.
Vimalanathan calls for the introduction of a farmers’ investment support program in Tamil Nadu, similar to the one being implemented in Telangana, by giving the farmers Rs. 10,000 per acre per year. He makes reference to the Chhattisgarh government’s gesture of paying Rs. 2,660 per quintal of paddy and Rs. 4,440 per tonne of sugarcane.
A government-sponsored pension plan for farmers over 60 years old is yet another long-standing demand from the farming community. A farmer from Kattumannarkoil named KV Elankeeran said the government should start by offering farmers an honorable pension. Millets should have a 15% increase in the area under cultivation from the current 2%. In addition to teaching farmers how to add value to their products, the government should take action to offer fair pricing for agricultural products.
Action required to increase agricultural exports pension
Expectations among farmers and exporters in Madurai and Ramanathapuram are high, including the creation of a distinct platform to increase chili export from Ramanathapuram and the installation of primary millet processing facilities in Madurai.
According to Ramanathapuram organic farmer V Ramar, among other products, chili crops from that region are in high demand in both the domestic and global markets. More than 300–500 tonnes of the 1,000 tonnes of chili crop are exported from the region. Nowadays, the area exports a lot of Samba kinds of chilies. As soon as the Ramanathapuram Mundu chili received the GI designation, importers from other countries began expressing interest. I personally have just received a first-ever order for 50 tonnes of mundu shipment to Germany.
Nowadays, Mundu chili costs 17–18k per quintal and Samba chili cost 21–22k per quintal. Its demand and pricing in the domestic and international markets might rise with the right marketing.
According to M. S. K. Bakkianathan, president of the Tamil Nadu Vaigai Irrigation Farmers Association, the TN government should take steps to purchase the Mundu and Samba chilies from the farmers in Ramanathapuram in light of the post-harvest losses experienced by crops like rice and copra.
towards building chile-dying characteristics in processing and storage facilities in Ramanathapuram to encourage chili export. He also stated that in order to assist chili farmers with initial processing and export tasks, the TN government should set up facilitation centers and export centers everywhere.
A farmer of mundu chilies from the Mudukulathur block named Ramanujam claimed that despite growing the mundu chili on around 8 acres and paying close to Rs 40,000 per acre, he and his farming partners do not receive a profit-making price for the crop. On the open market, we barely ever receive Rs. 1,500 to Rs. 1,800 per quintal. When the chili has the GI tag, we hope the circumstance changes. We ask the TN government to set up such a platform so that we may negotiate better costs.