Gradual decline in the price of cash crops like cardamom, ginger and chiraito over the past few years has left farmers in Panchthar high and dry.
Agro produces like these are the main source of income for local farmers. However, gradual decline in prices over the past few years have left them worried.
Farmers are not rejoicing despite significant growth in production of cardamom this year, as there are not getting good price for their produce. Traders had bought cardamom from traders by paying Rs 28,750 per ton some two years ago. The price has now dwindled to as low as Rs 6,500 per ton. As traders are offering very low price, many farmers are left with no option but to store their produce at home.
The situation of ginger and chiraito farmers is no different. Pest attack in ginger plant has affected production of ginger. Despite drop in production, price of ginger has plummeted to Rs 500 per 40 kg, from as high as Rs 1,500 per kg some years ago. “Gradual drop in the price of ginger has made things difficult for us,” Ram Prasad Mainali, a ginger farmer, said.
Traders are yet to place order for chiraito this season. Even though farmers have already harvested this medicinal herb and put it under the sun for drying, they are still to get order from this year.
Chiraito, which used to fetch farmers as high as Rs 20,000 per 40 kg in the past, was traded at only Rs 7,000 per 40 kg last year.
“Many farmers in the district have begun commercial farming of chiraito. Production has increased accordingly. But there is no buyer,” Tika Rai, a chiraito farmer, told Republica. “Last year also we were not offered proper price for our product.”
Ganesh Pokharel, president of National Farmers Group, Panchthar, said local farmers were losing their livelihoods as the government has not fixed minimum support price of key farm products. “We are unable to get back our investment, let alone making profit,” he added. “Though the government always says agricultural sector has been prioritized, it is always the farmers who have to bear the loss.”
Some farmers lamented that shifting from one crop to other was not doing them any good. “I started cultivating chiraito after pest attacks on cardamom started increasing. But chiraito is not yielding good returns,” Krishna Rai, who started chiraito farming only recently, said.
Though it is the main production season of ginger, traders have not approached the farmers to buy this produce. Many farmers have stopped production of cash crops because of factors like lack of market as well as transport and irrigation facilities.