Farmers seek to raise cropping area as vegetable prices continue to rise

Acreage has been higher in summer crop but output may not go up in line with sowing

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While the area under vegetable sowing is likely to go up by 5-7 per cent with the rise in prices, the output may not increase in sync with higher acreage. Vegetable prices have risen by up to 40 per cent over the past one week due to limited availability across major mandis. Bitter gourd, for instance, is selling at Rs 36 a kg in Kolkata's wholesale market and at Rs 60 a kg in retail. Cabbage in Mumbai’s wholesale market has become costlier by 33 per cent to trade at Rs 20 a kg today. There has been a spike in prices in other key markets as well.

Onion prices were also rising and were quoted at Rs 14 a kg at the Lasalgaon mandi in Nasik, Maharashtra. Responding to this situation, the government has completely withdrawn the 10 per cent MEIS (Merchandise Export from India Scheme) export incentives granted to fresh and chilled onions under the Free trade Policy (FTP), in order to discourage shipment out of India and stem further price escalation in the domestic markets. A notification to this effect was issued on Tuesday by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT).  

Experts believe farmers would have to bear with high vegetable prices for the next four to six weeks at least, even if the monsoon is normal this season.

“The overall acreage under vegetables may rise by 5-7 per cent this year as farmers look for additional area with irrigation facility, to compensate the loss in output in drier years. Overall vegetable output, however, may not rise proportionately,” said a senior official at the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC), Vashi.

Experts said that flowers in the summer-sown vegetables have started burning due to the lack of moisture in the field. Farmers in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Telangana anticipate a sharp decline in vegetable output this year due to sustained decline in water table following two consecutive years of below-average monsoon.

While forecasts of normal monsoon this year have kept their hopes alive, rainfall distribution would play a pivotal role in scaling up overall vegetable output and farm incomes.

Sriram Gadhave, President, All India Vegetables Growers’ Association, said, “Flowers of summer-planted vegetables crops are burning in major growing states, resulting in a sharp decline in arrivals and increase in prices over the past week to 10 days. Farmers are facing a precarious situation over availability of water across Maharashtra and neighbouring states. Consequently, farmers are looking to bring additional area to cash in on rising vegetables prices in the months to come.”

Normally, vegetables sown with irrigated water in the pre-monsoon season get harvested with the onset of seasonal rainfall. This year, however, crops were badly hit because of deficient rain in the last two years and in the pre-monsoon season this year.

“Now that the first monsoon showers in Maharashtra and a few other states have brought some relief, farmers fear the occurrence of El Nino this year may bring less rain in India. Anyway, the output of standing vegetable crops would decline by 50-60 per cent due to the lack of moisture in the field. Thus, overall yield is expected to drop sharply in summer-sown crops,” said Sanjay Bhujbal, a large vegetable stockist in Vashi, near Mumbai