Nupur Basu, Saturday, April 29, 2006 (Wayanad district):
Agricultural distress has hit farmers particularly badly in southern India where farmers depend a lot on cash crops like pepper, coffee, rubber, sugarcane etc.
An NDTV team travelled to the Wayanad district in Kerala to cover the story of one coffee farmer, Kunhimohan.
NDTV: How much land do you have ?
Kunhimohan: One hectare. If I have a good rate then it is enough for my survival.
NDTV: How much money did you get from the crop this time?
Kunhimohan: I get one crop a year. Now for every kilogram we are getting only Rs 23. It’s not enough. I should get at least Rs 50. For covering my costs for irrigation, labour and the cost of cultivation it is simply not enough.
NDTV: How much loan have you taken?
Kunhimohan: I have taken all kinds of loans. I have taken a total of Rs 1.5 lakh from Grameen bank and State Bank. I can’t even pay the interest after selling my crop. There is no rate for coffee or pepper. Farmers have taken loans which they cannot repay, so daily they are committing suicide.
NDTV: What do you want from the government?
Kunhimohan: the government should give loans without any interest to farmers. They should give at least Rs 50,000 per acre and they should give it long term so we can repay the loans.
Experts warn of an escalating agricultural crisis like a rise in the graph of farmer suicides if urgent steps are not taken.
"It’s around 1500 over the last five years and in Wayanad itself 200-300 suicides. Suicides are happening almost every day.
"When duty free imports come into the country on account of WTO reduction in tariff and on account of other free trade agreements, our region is affected, our farmers are affected and there is no cover of protection on the state’s part," said Dr KN Harilal, economist, Centre for Development Studies (CDS), Thiruvananthapuram.
So the next time you are sipping coffee in a fancy restaurant in Mumbai, Delhi or Bangalore and paying about Rs 60 to 100 for a just a cup, spare a thought for Kunnhimohan and the many thousands like him in Wayanad district: coffee farmers, who are getting just Rs 23 per kg for their coffee produce.