Shillong: It’s a double whammy for the farmers in Shillong. The surge in COVID-19 second wave and related restrictions has led to fewer buyers for the local produce, leading to heaps of leafy and other vegetables rotting and literally going down the drain.
EastMojo visited the Anjali Parking lot, one of the areas identified for farmers, aggregators, wholesalers and retailers to carry out trading activities.
Several farmers had an altercation with the officials and security personnel in-charge after not seeing any customers. A few farmers and vegetable sellers claimed that they are receiving calls from their regular customers saying the police won’t let them through and that there was a long queue outside the Anjali parking lot.
K Nongum, a vegetable seller who buys directly from the farmers, was on the verge of tears.
“If they have opened this huge space and are allowing only two buyers at a time, then what kind of process is that? We were forced to take matters into our own hands today to go and meet the Magistrate,” said Nongum.
Nongum had even questioned the police if they were ready to purchase their goods if they weren’t allowing the customers. “It is better if they close the gates and don’t allow us to sell our goods anymore. Let us die out of hunger,” said Nongum.
She said the situation is leading to their fresh produce lying there and rotting. “I understand that there is lockdown but they should understand that we are ensuring social distancing norms,” said Nongum.
The farmers feel the government should open nearby areas and markets, like the iewduh, where the customers are more likely to visit.
“Opening up areas like Demseiniong, Mawlong doesn’t make sense. Who is going to go all the way there? These are the two main places that people go to. The government is not thinking about the poor,” added Nongum.
The farmers also reacted to a recent statement made by Prestone Tynsong, where the deputy chief minister advised people to not eat meat but vegetables and rice during the lockdown.
Nongum said: “Tynsong feels we can survive eating vegetables, but he is not aware that the farmers also need money to buy oil to cook their food.”
Banri Nongbri, a farmer, said they can see more vegetable sellers and farmers than buyers.
“The farmers are spending more than ₹1,000 each day to come to Shillong and sell their produce. We would preferred the vegetables rotting on the fields than rotting here at the parking lot. This cucumber stock here has been lying since Monday, so this whole week we have not been getting many customers. Everyday we are made to throw away vegetables,” said Nongbri.
Nongbri said a 70-kg basket of cucumbers would usually be bought for ₹800 (wholesale price). But with fewer buyers now, they are only able to sell a few kilos, and for not more than ₹200.
Nongbri will now have to throw away the remaining, rotting cucumbers as they have been here since Monday.
Several farmers and traders have even opted to move out of the area, and were seen selling their produce on footpaths around Rhino point and Anjali petrol pump area.
Sanbor Shadap said the government should come up with areas where they can sell their produce to customers who want to purchase. Shadap said it is a challenge with permission to only wholesalers and retailers.
Another farmer who was selling capsicum in polythene bags said they are left with no option but to sell their produce at lower prices, leaving them with no profit.
East Khasi Hills Deputy Commissioner Isawanda Laloo, in a notification issued on May 24, said that no middlemen or individuals/household buyers will be permitted. They may purchase from their local stores only. Such persons will not be permitted to enter the market areas.