Disease, untimely rain leave onion farmers in tears

Disease, untimely rain leave onion farmers in tears

crop loss

Hundreds of onion bags are allowed to rot in sheds in parts of Central and North Karnataka districts due to bulb rot disease.

Outbreak of fruit/bulb rot disease and leaf blight disease coupled with excess rainfall in the last three months has left thousands of onion farmers in tears across central and north Karnataka districts. While the disease has wiped out the crop in Chitradurga, Davangere, Shivamogga, excess rain and flash floods have damaged the crop in the northern parts of the state.

Ravaged by the disease for three harvests in a row, farmers are destroying the crop and staring at a severe economic crisis. Venting their ire against the horticulture department, the farmers alleged that officials are of no help even as more and more hectares are being infected with the disease. In Chitradurga alone, more than 5,000 hectares of onion crop has perished with a similar state of affairs in Davangere. This apart, crops on close to 10,000 hectares in Kalaburagi, Koppal, Yadgir and Vijayapura have also been affected due to heavy rain and floods.

What has baffled the farmers is the infection at the time of harvest. “All farmers are witnessing the disease just prior to the harvest. In some cases, the bulbs begin to rot after they are packed in bags. We do not know if it is due to rain or the soil. Many have tried a variety of pesticides with little success,” bemoaned Nagaraj, a farmer in Chitradurga taluk.

While it costs Rs 700 to Rs 1,000 to cultivate, harvest and transport a bag of onions, the farmers are earning only Rs 150 to Rs 200 a bag. “At times, we have even sold them for as low as Rs 50 to Rs 100,” revealed Mallikarjun, district president of Raitha Sangha. The rot -ridden bulbs are summarily rejected at the Yeshwantpur APMC market in Bengaluru.

During the onion season from June to September, Chitradurga, Davangere, Haveri, Kalaburagi and adjoining districts are the major suppliers of onion to Bengaluru. However, due to the poor quality of the local crop, traders are preferring those from northern Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

The crop in central Karnataka has wilted due to rot disease and leaf blight infection. Many are destroying the crop using tractors. “Hundreds of bags of onions are kept in open in sheds as we are unable to segregate the bulbs due to high cost of labour. The market price does not even compensate for the labour costs. It is better we dump them in compost pits,” lamented Lakshmikanth, a farmer from Lingavarahatti in Chitradurga
district.

While DH reached out to horticulture officials at Lalbagh, including the director, there was no response to messages and calls. However, Horticulture Minister Munirathna told DH that he is not aware of the issue. “No farmer has informed me about the problem. If they bring it to my attention, I will definitely do whatever is necessary to help them as I am always with the
farmers.”

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