NEW DELHI | CHANDIGARH | PUNE: The ongoing 10-day farmer strike called by the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh has so far made no major impact on the market, although traders said they are watching the situation closely. Supplies and prices of fruits and vegetables remained stable in most places, including the big cities of Delhi and Mumbai, with the impact of the agitation remaining limited to isolated pockets like parts of Punjab and Maharashtra.
Meanwhile, the Bhartiya Kisan Union(Rajewal), a farmers’ organisation from Punjab, announced that it would stay off the strike from June 6, indicating differences within the Mahasangh, an umbrella body of more than 100 farmers’ unions.
The Mahasangh, however, said the agitation that started on June 1was gaining strength in Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and elsewhere. The strike can intensify in Maharashtra as NCP leader Sharad Pawar urged farmers to continue the struggle till their issues are resolved.
Availability of fruits and vegetables was slightly lower at agricultural markets in western Maharashtra, while in Delhi’s market, which caters to the entire north and central India, prices of most vegetables have been stable.
Supplies from the Delhi market to other regions, however, saw a drop, said traders.
The Bhartiya Kisan Union cited heavy losses incurred by dairy and marginal vegetable growers in the last few days for ending the strike. “The farmer unions in Punjab were not consented while deciding the timing of the protest,” it said in a statement. “During this period, farmers in Punjab are engaged in sowing the new crops,” it said.
Its decision brought much-needed relief to consumers in Punjab where a shortage of vegetables had led to a price rise on Monday. In retail, the price of tomato increased to Rs 45 a kg from Rs 25, while potato was sold at Rs 25 compared with Rs 15 two days ago. Milk procurement fell 40-50% for Haryana Dairy Development Cooperative Federation that owns the Vita brand.
In Delhi’s Azadpur mandi, arrivals were stable and there was no major movement in prices traders said. Raj Kumar Bhatia, general secretary of the Chamber of Azadpur Fruit and Vegetable Traders association, said: “In Delhi, the supplies are normal and hence no impact on prices, though in neighbouring states to whom the Azadpur mandi caters to are not getting proper supplies.
Trucks have been stopped due to farmers’ agitation in lot of places across Ganganagar, Bikaner, Fazilka, Ferozepur, Abohar, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Hisar, Panipat, Karnal, Sirsa, and Kurukshetra.” Bhatia said there was enough supplies coming to Delhi, which coupled with less demand has kept prices subdued. Tomato prices in the mandi plunged to Rs 2-3 a kg on Monday from Rs 6-8 a day earlier, said Anil Mahotra a member of the Azadpur Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee. On May 31, tomato prices in the mandi were in the range of 75 paise to Rs 2.
Shankar Pingale, a member of the Vashi Vegetable Merchant Association, said close to 550-600 trucks of average 8 tonne capacity arrived on Monday, which was in line with the usual supply. “Prices of fruits and vegetables have been stable too.” He said the association was watching the situation as prices could rise if the strike gained strength.
Meanwhile, there is a possibility of the strike turning severe in Maharashtra. “Farmers have taken to the streets because they have become indebted. This is not a political agitation and all sections of society need to back the farmers,” former union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said in a tweet. He advised farmers to distribute milk and vegetables among the needy instead of throwing on the road.
The All India Kisan Sabha has threatened to cut off supplies of milk and vegetables from Thursday if the Maharashtra government didn’t fulfil the promises it had made to farmers during earlier agitations.
Mother Dairy Fruit & Vegetable Ltd. said it is cognizant of the protests and is keeping a close watch on the situation. “Currently, we are taking all requisite measures to ensure availability of fresh fruits and vegetables at our Safal outlets sourced directly from farmers. Likewise, for milk, we have made adequate arrangements to ensure the sourcing as well as the supplies to the market,” a spokesperson said.
The agitation by farmers will continue until their demands are met, said Shiv Kumar Sharma, president of Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh.
“The strike is getting widespread support from farmers in BJP and Congress-ruled states. The police has also detained farmer leaders in Rajgarh and Singrauli districts of Madhya Pradesh. There is nothing political about our agitation, as the BJP is portraying,” said Sharma. “We are fighting for our rights. Over 3 lakh farmers have committed suicide in the past 20 years and we have had innumerable discussions with the state and central governments on issues affecting us and our livelihood. It’s time our demands are met.”
Farmers are demanding loan waivers, a minimum income guarantee scheme and implementation of the Swaminathan Commission proposals. Milk will be distributed to the poor and needy, but produce will not be sold in the cities for 10 days, the agitating farmers said.