As flowers wilt, farmers flounder

As flowers wilt, farmers flounder

It rose, it fell

Farmers in Hunasekatte pluck Kanakambara flowers in order to destroy them. In farm after farm, farmers are plucking and throwing away ‘Kanakambara’  (Firecracker) flowers.

The vermilion-coloured, non-fragrant flowers (botanical name Crossandra infundibuliformis) worn by Indian women in their hair, are also offered to goddesses of the Indian pantheon.

Considering that the flower has been the source of livelihood for the growers over the past few years, it is with deep regret that the farmers pluck out plants bearing the flowers and throw them into the ground, to be ploughed into the soil as mulch.

But they have no option. The prices of flowers have crashed drastically in the market, with the market quotation far below the input costs of farmers.

Over the recent years, the district has emerged as a major floriculture source, with flowers being grown in 815 hectares. The flowers grown include Kakada (a variety of jasmine), dundu mallige (round bud jasmine), the creamish white, fragrant Sugandharaja (polianthes tuberosa), marigold, asters and roses.

Barring the monsoon months, flowers have been the main source of living for farmers throughout the year in Chitradurga.

A few years ago, farmers found their nirvana in floriculture which is a sustainable farming activity. Kanakambara plants sown in an acre provide 50 kg of flowers once every four days.

Hunasekatte and the surrounding villages have been a major source of the flower that is transported to elsewhere in the State as well as neighbouring states. Daily, hundreds of tonnes of flowers are harvested and sent out of the villages.

But, for the average farmer, the flower provided a little more than subsistence living. The middleman took the cream, the cake and the bakery.

Of late, with the input prices going up, even making a simple living was becoming difficult. Pickers are paid Rs 50 for plucking a kg of flowers. Workers who make strands of flowers have to be paid Rs 70 for a kg totalling Rs 120 kg. But the price crashed to Rs 50 to 70 in the recent days.

“With the input costs amounting to Rs. 70,000-80,000 an acre, we were suffering losses not worth bearing,” says Rajanna of Hunasekatte.

“That is why, swallowing our sorrow, we are destroying the flowers,” says Thippeswamy.

Unlike other farm products, flowers do not enjoy support price mechanism. For that matter, there are no separate sales counters for flowers at the APMC, leaving the growers at the mercy of middlemen.

“The touts collect a commission of up to 10 per cent,” complains a farmer.

“Now, with no choice, we are removing the plants in order to prepare the soil for sowing onion and maize,”says Rajanna,