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    Published On : Tue, Dec 1st, 2015

    Farmers in deep distress – no takers for oranges in Orange city Nagpur!

    No takers for oranges this year

    Our neighbours came to us in distress some days ago.

    “Our orange orchard has ripened and fruits are ready to be harvested. But no merchant is coming to buy them, what to do?”

    It came as a shock to them to realize that no one wanted to buy them because this year there is no market for oranges!

    We have been hearing of Cotton farmers of Vidarbha losing money, losing hope and then losing life because of losses suffered in growing cotton.

    Is it going to be the turn for the famous ‘Nagpur Orange’ farmers now?

    Crashing prices

    Consider this – the beautiful, big and sweet orange harvest of this ‘Ambiya bar’ is fetching a price of Rs. one to maximum Rs. 10 per Kg. By a conservative estimate if you get three oranges in a Kilo, that is 33 paisa for one orange.

    Leave alone the cost of growing the orange trees and looking after the orchards year long, farmers are not being compensated for the money they have to spend for having the fruits plucked from trees. But they have to be plucked otherwise the tree suffers and subsequent flowering will not happen so the miserable Orange farmers of Vidarbha are having them plucked and often just throwing them on the roads. What else can they do? If they transport them to Nagpur or any other market place, the losses will only mount because they do not know what price they will get – or even if anyone will buy them.

    What has happened for ‘our fruit’ to meet this sorry fate?

    Overproduction over the last 4 years

    The tragedy has been unfolding for the last 3 – 4 years but no one was paying attention. Least of all the agriculture Ministries sitting in Mumbai or Delhi – or agriculture officers based in every taluka and every town of our state.

    Since the water level rose in nearby towns and villages due to changing rain fall in the past few years farmers of our area happily went back to planting oranges thinking it is a “cash crop” and will always bring good profit.

    Thus 1.5 crore saplings were brought from orange nurseries in Warud alone. If you add Ubali, Katol and Nagpur the figure goes to 3 crores. Assuming that even 50% of the saplings survived and grew we have 1.5 crore orange trees that grew and blossomed since 2004 onwards.( The orange sapling has to be developed by grafting orange shoot on to the wild ‘Jambheri’ tree and only some nurseries know the skill to do it).

    An orange tree takes 5 – 6 years to mature and start yielding fruits so these new trees began selling in the market since 2009 – 2010. As long as there was good demand and they could be transported out to metros like Banglore, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai it was alright. Prices were decreasing because of over supply but only marginally.

    Prices reached rock bottom last year and many merchants who purchase entire orchards ( that is how orange is sold – not by number or by weight but entire orchard is bought by orange merchants) lost heavily. To the tune of crores even.

    They hoped to recover some losses this year and were already looking to purchase oranges cheaper than last year.

    Unseasonal rains in south killed markets

    1. Then the following things happened too : 

      There were unseasonal rains in Bangalore, Chennai and many towns of the south. In fact Chennai saw unprecedented floods and is still in chaos. Roads are cut off. The rains brought cold weather and no one wants to eat a citrus fruit when it is very cold. The demand for Nagpur oranges in these two states – Karnataka and Tamilnadu which were main markets crashed.

      Delhi has now begun to get cheaper oranges grown in Rajasthan so Nagpur oranges had already seen a decrease in their market share in the north.

      To add to all these woes, our Indian government suddenly stopped export of oranges to Bangladesh. From there they were exported onwards to Singapore, Myanmar etc. which also stopped.

      Even if it had been on, transport costs of a ten tonner truck of oranges to Calcutta had touched almost Rs. one lakh per truck so it was not viable to send them there.

      Thus all the fruits ended up landing in Nagpur, Santra market from places like Warud, Morshi, Shendurjana ghat, Katol, Kalmeshwar etc. There was a veritable glut of the fruit and the price could not hold – it crashed. How many oranges can one city consume?

    And now we have come to the sorry pass that they are being thrown on the streets and left to rot.

    Farmers who can afford bringing them to Nagpur do so, and we can see them lined by the sides of main roads of Nagpur trying to sell them directly to customers but there seem to be few customers. They do not take them to the Kalamna market because no whole seller or merchant is ready to purchase. These road side farmers will sell till the fruits are good, but they are highly perishable – so in a day or two they will just leave the over ripe oranges and go back to their villages.

    But things have not come to a sorry pass suddenly. There has been a steady deterioration for conditions for the Orange grower and no has been redressing his grievances.

    Constant official neglect and apathy

    Farmers of Vidarbha have been crying themselves hoarse wanting this basic support from the state and Central government. All they asked for was :

    Railway line to Warud, Narkhed to transport oranges by wagons to markets in North and South. Transport by rail is almost 1/4th cost of transport by road and bulk quantities can be sent together.

    Railway line and Railway station finally came to Warud two years ago but it has only some passenger trains plying from there. No arrangement for goods transport has been made and ‘malgadis’ goods -trains provided.

    Some food processing plants put up by government or incentives given for private plants. If not for making juice, jam, pulp etc. at least for waxing. Nothing has come up, but existing units like NOGA have closed down.

    The present Fadnavis government has promised to set up a Orange juice factory in Nanded – where no oranges are grown!

    There is no technical help or counselling given to farmers advising what variety of fruits to grow and what is in demand internationally.

    So they have been growing the same varieties again and again imagining that they are still ” growing the best oranges in the world”. They are no more so – fruits in California and other parts of the world have advanced so much that they are being imported into cash rich markets like Mumbai and Pune where they fetch handsome price.

    Even juice makers like REAL juice and Parles do not prefer to buy Nagpur oranges as they are good only as table fruits, the juice is bitter because of the seeds. They used imported orange concentrate!

    All this story sounds familiar?

    Where are our policy makers, our growth plans for farmers and / or a sustainable agricultural policy in place?

    There is the White elephant of a Citrus Research Institute in Nagpur where highly paid ‘Scientists’ drawing handsome salaries sit and do – pretty much nothing!

    Last year an urban farmer of Nagpur who wanted to buy Orange and Lemon ( Nimbu) plants from this institute was told they had no saplings to offer – all sold out!

    If this continues shortly we will have to stop calling ourselves the
    ” city of oranges” That will be truly a BLACK day…

    …. Sunita Mudliyar


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