The Himachal Kisan Sabha and the Himachal Seb Utpadak Sangh to organize protest Rallies at the Block Headquarter of the apple growing area of Shimla, Kinnaur, Kullu and Mandi Districts on 1st Aug. 2013.
These farmer’s organizations stated that the apple cultivation was in serious crisis as terms of trade were turning more and more against the farmer. In their joint press statement, these organizations stated that under the neo-liberal path of development, the state investment in agriculture has been reduced, the regulatory roll has changed in favour of the corporate capital and above all the Govt. has no vision and perspective how to meet the challenges, once the WTO laws come into operation from 2014. They said
“It is not surprising with all these factors operating the cost of production have increased varying from 23 percent to 35 percent over the previous year in different apple growing areas of the state. The smaller the holding the higher is the cost of production. While on the other hand the price of the goods produced by the farmers is on a continuous decline. As far as apple is concerned the decline in the price is on an average of 30 percent, over the last years harvest”
Rakesh Singha, President Seb Utpadak Sangh, who was spearheading the campaign, stated that after the enactment of the Himachal Pradesh Agricultural and Horticultural produce marketing (Development & Regulation) Act 2005. Private unregulated markets have come up in large number in different places in the apple growing areas. These markets have only given illusionary benefits to the farmers, a very large number of farmers have been cheated by these commission agents. Alone last year a payment of 10 to 15 crores of rupees are yet due to the farmers.
He also threatened to publish a list of all those commission agents who have failed to give payments to the growers for the previous apple season. They have asked these commission agents to complete unpaid payments be made by 7th August with a 12 % interest failing which the list will not only be published but also a boycott of these Arthiyas will come into operation from 8th Aug. 2013.
CPM backed farmers organizations alleged
A large number of commission agents of the unregulated markets were fleecing the small and marginal growers by selling the apple of less than 60 mm size at 40 percent less than the other fruit. This is illegal as per the rules of the regulated market and moreover fruit in the retail market is not sold by size but by weight. The commission agents are taking advantage of the smaller size of fruit to loot the farmers
Seb Utpadak Sangh has blamed Govt for not providing any services or benefits to the farmers but at the same time increasing the amount of different kinds of taxes imposed on the apple export and its marketing. The one percent marketing fee imposed on apple is unacceptable which was neither logical nor justified. Till last year only Rs. 2/- per box was being imposed which now has been increased many fold apart from this the govt. has also more than doubled the Tax being imposed at the Parwanoo barrier to Rs. 5/- per box (Certain goods carried by road)
They have also accused the Govt. of serving the interest of the commission agents. It is under their pressure the Govt failed to introduce a standardized 20 kg packing and implement law for penalizing the commission agents who compel and allure farmers to pack over weight fruit in cartons weighing beyond the international standard weight of 20 kg packing. Rakesh Singh also lambasted at the decision of increasing 15 percent hike in the freight charges. He alleged that this goes to the advantage of the Truck operators lobby.
Seb Utpadak Sangh has also said that as per an analytical study of the data available from the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCIS) on the import of apple reveals that once the 52 percent import duty on apple is withdrawn, and thus it’ll adversely impacted the apple business of state and virtually collapse in the coming time.
Sangh also accused that the Horticulture Deptt. of state has failed to disperse subsidies on agriculture equipment including anti- hail nets since the financial year 2009-2010 amounting to more than 40 crores of rupees. The govt. has the tendency only to take but as far as giving was concerned the concessions were given to the corporate houses under the garb of incentives, Sangh alleged.
Seb Utpadak Sangh and Himachal Kisan Sabha also blamed government for checking on import of apples from other countries. The farmers organizations stated that in 2012-13, 9,96,310 boxes of apple were imported the major consignment coming from China and USA, each importing 3,87,800 and 3,35,295 boxes respectively. Iran which was importing only 930 boxes in 2011-12 increased its import to 27,885 in 2012-13 by misusing the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) though it was a non SAFTA country but it chose the Afghanistan route for the import of the fruit. The increase has been 28 times more in quantity, they alleged. They feared that if China and USA who were the major producers of apple fruit in the world increase their import by 28 times the quantum of boxes of just these two countries would amount to 2.02 crores boxes (50 % of the production of Himachal Pradesh). Farmer organizations have accused government for failing to prevent the illegal import of apple that was hitting state farmers hard and also the Govt of India as there was evasion of import duty to the state exchequer.
The two organizations have asked the Govt to address the concerns of the apple farmers failing which the farmers will launch infinite protests in the state.