Sunday, May 01, 2011

The Humble Jowar reaches Rs 50 per kilo!

The Hindu article
BIDAR, May 1, 2011

High jowar price hits many households in north Karnataka

1 kg of jowar costs between Rs. 36 and Rs. 48 in the retail market in Bidar
With the price of jowar ( Sorghum bicolor) reaching Rs. 50 a kg, households in north Karnataka are having a hard time. On Saturday, a kg of jowar cost between Rs. 36 and Rs. 48 in the retail market in Bidar.

Government sources said the hike in price was a result of the area under jowar cultivation decreasing by nearly half in the State. “The average area under sorghum in Karnataka is around 17 lakh hectares. However, this year it has reduced to around 11 lakh hectares. This is alarming,” a senior Agriculture Department official said.

Of the total area under jowar, only a fifth was of the hybrid variety used as fodder. Rabi jowar, called the Bijapur variety or Bili Jola, was grown on 80 per cent of the area. Bijapur and Bagalkot together contribute to over 50 per cent of the rabi jowar in the State. Rabi jowar is the preferred variety for making rotis. While the rabi area has decreased by 40 per cent, the area under hybrid variety has gone down by 60 per cent, officials said.

Change in trend

“Last year, the red gram price shot up to Rs. 90 a kg in the retail market. Farmers thought they could benefit if this trend continued. But this may not happen this year as the red gram price has not increased beyond Rs. 45 till now. But jowar production came down as it was replaced by red gram in several districts,” said B.D. Biradar, senior sorghum breeder of the University of Agriculture Sciences, Dharwad.

Secondly, the cropping patterns in north Karnataka were changing after irrigation facilities were provided to the region. Earlier, farmers would grow paddy in the kharif season and jowar in the rabi season. However, now farmers were cultivating paddy even in the rabi season.

“Thirdly, the jowar crop was hit by heavy rain coupled with low temperature and high humidity just before harvest time. This also reduced the yield,” said Shankar Kulkarni, senior UAS scientist at the Bijapur Krishi Vigyan Kendra.

However, farmers' associations perceive the problem differently. “The middlemen in the farm produce trade are responsible for the sudden rise in foodgrain prices,” said Siddappa Metre, Bidar district president of the Karnataka Pradesh Raitha Sangha. “Traders have bought jowar from farmers at Rs. 20 to Rs. 23 a kg and are selling it at over Rs. 45 a kg. Sadly, neither the Government nor the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees have any control on the traders. Farmers are always at the mercy of these traders as they are the moneylenders in the villages,” Mr. Metre said.

Need for regulation

He maintained that jowar did not need any processing and only a small amount was spent by traders on storage. He accused traders of hoarding foodgrains and sought stricter regulation of the farm produce trade. One way of ensuring enough supply of jowar in the market was to provide a remunerative price to farmers, said Dr. Biradar. “Even today, the Union Government's minimum support price for jowar is Rs. 8.50 a kg. If this is raised to Rs. 15, the farmers will ensure stable yields and area under the crop will not decrease,” he said.

The Department of Food and Civil Supplies said it was difficult to introduce jowar in the public distribution system due to problems in procuring the grain. “Jowar and ragi are on the list of grains that we plan to distribute to the poor. However, we can't procure these grains easily either under the MSP scheme or the levy scheme,” B.A. Harish Gowda, Secretary, Food and Civil Supplies said. “Farmers don't seem to grow enough jowar to sell it to the Government at MSP,” he said.

Agricultural scientists accuse traders of hoarding foodgrains
‘Remunerative price must be given to farmers to ensure enough supply of jowar'

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