As veggies hit the roof, farmers blame middlemen

But big traders at mandismaintain it is wrong to seefarmers as victims.

“We see and read on television and in newspapers that the price of vegetables has gone up in Delhi. But we are selling our vegetables at still the same prices in Azadpur Mandi as we were two months back,” says Mange Ram, a 35-year-old convent school-educated farmer in village Marh, two kilometres from Saharanpur.

“Only the ardhtis are making money it seems, not the farmers, I assure you,” he adds.  Ardhtis are middlemen.

Mange Ram and hundreds of vegetable farmers in and around scores of villages in Saharanpur supply their produce directly to Azadpur Mandi in Delhi. And they insist that they are not getting any higher prices for the vegetables.

“God knows how they (Delhi ardhtis) do it. If tomatoes are being sold at Rs 50 or Rs 60 in Delhi, some people are indeed making profits. We still sell them at Rs 8 or Rs 10 depending upon the quality. If it is very good, then the most we get in Delhi is Rs 12,” says  Dharamvir, another farmer from the district.

Even vegetable farmers in the villages of Gautam Buddh Nagar narrate the same tale. Things are no different with producers in Muzaffarnagar too. Infact, farmers from the entire western Uttar Pradesh belt maintain they have no role in the recent price hikes.
But Mohammad Nadeem of Rehamilahi & Sons, who owns three shops in Azadpur Mandi and deals in papaya, vehemently opposes the farmers' claim.

“The price hike begins with farmers. We keep our margin at whatever price they sell us. Suppose the margin is five rupees when we buy at Rs 10 per kg, it will still remain Rs 5 when we buy it at Rs 20 per kg. It is wrong to say that farmers are innocent and the victims while the middlemen are making money,” says Nadeem.

He says at times they had to resort to todbandi to check farmers greed.

What is todbandi? “When a farmer wants more money for his product, which the market does not allow, we tell him that we will not buy from him for three or four days. This scares him because his fruit or vegetables could perish in the meantime, and he agrees to lower the price,” explains Nadeem.

Some blames the vendors for being too greedy.

“Farmers hear about vegetables being costly through media and they want to sell them to us at higher prices,” said Rama Kant, another ardhati.  But, in the end, they all say it's a matter of demand and supply.

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