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Subabul farmers switch to regular crops in the wake of uncertain returns
Agricultural market committees fix support price once in two years
Uncertain future:A heavy arrival of subabul logs was witnessed at a storage point on the outskirts of Ongole.
ONGOLE: The drought-prone Prakasam district had become a model for other districts by growing of subabul, eucalyptus, and casuarina in over 2.50 lakh acres of wasteland, thanks to a well-regulated market ensured through the Agricultural Market Committees(AMCs) since late 1990's.
But the land under social forestry plantations has now shrunk to about 50,000 acres in the last two years with farmers in Chimakurthi, Aadanki, Tangutur and other areas uprooting the trees and switching to regular crops in the wake of uncertain returns for their produce, according to AMC sources.
“We are not getting even Rs. 20,000 per acre after growing them for four years. Even if we lease out our land, we can get Rs. 10,000 per acre,'' said Ch. Srinivasa Rao, a farmer in Chimakurthi, while clearing his land of subabul stumps ahead of the kharif season.
“It is not that the demand for paper has come down even a bit. On the contrary, the demand for paper has gone up from 65 lakh tonnes to one crore tonnes in the last three years and projected to touch the two-crore-tonne mark by 2020,” official sources said.
Thanks to encouragement by the NABARD, farmers took to social forestry in a big way in the late 1990's, switching from traditionally-grown tobacco in the wake of the anti-smoking campaign, AMC officials said.
Representatives of paper mills and farmers under the aegis of the AMCs fixed support price for social forestry plantations once in every two years. Under the system, paper mills are required to buy their requirement of eucalyptus, subabul and casuarina only at regulated market yards paying the notified price to farmers.
‘Weaken the system'
The system worked well for over eight years, before the paper mills subverted the system by buying directly from farmers through their agents to break the collective bargaining system, AMC officials said.
Though the purchase price was revised to Rs. 2,075 per tonne for subabul and Rs. 2,225 per tonne of eucalyptus in April this year after a gap of four years, the paper mills are not honouring the same, alleged CPI(M)-led Andhra Pradesh Rythu Sangam district secretary N. Ranga Rao while talking to The Hindu.
Instead, paper mills are buying the produce directly from farmers through its agents at the farm itself at Rs.1,400-1,500 per tonne, complains Andhra Pradesh Kavulu Rythu Sangam district secretary D Gopinath.
“The government should take note of the drop in subabul cultivation by farmers. It should step in to arrest the present trend to meet the domestic demand for pulpwood without resorting to imports or cutting forests which adversely affects the environment,” Mr Ranga Rao added.
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