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Oversupply Of Capsicum in Punjab Triggers Price Collapse and Farmer Protests

In response to the government's efforts to encourage crop diversification, farmers in Mansa shifted their focus to cultivating capsicum. However, this year's overabundant yield has resulted in a massive drop in market prices, with capsicum selling for a mere Rs 2 compared to Rs 25 last year.

Yash Saxena
Oversupply Of Capsicum in Punjab Triggers Price Collapse and Farmer Protests
Oversupply Of Capsicum in Punjab Triggers Price Collapse and Farmer Protests

In Bhaini Bagha, a hamlet located in the Mansa district of Punjab, young men employed by a private trader from Ambala are busy sealing truckloads of glossy, green capsicum boxes. Each carton, weighing between 21 and 23 kg, contains produce harvested from Gora Singh's land in the village. The capsicum is being transported to mandis in West Bengal.

In a favorable year, Gora Singh could sell his bountiful capsicum crop for prices ranging from Rs 25 to 35 per kilogram. However, this year has brought him great disappointment as he is forced to sell his produce for a mere Rs 2 per kilogram.

According to Gora Singh, who dedicates five acres of his 20-acre farm each year to capsicum cultivation, "This year has been the worst ever." He further explained, "It's almost like I'm giving it away for free. I won't even recover my investment." These words underscore the gravity of the situation faced by farmers like him when the market prices of their crops collapse.

Gora Singh, a leader of a farm union, reports that nearly 2,000 farmers from 15 villages across Mansa, Bathinda, and Firozpur are experiencing the same plight as him.

Feeling disheartened, a small group of these farmers assembled on the Bathinda-Mansa National Highway on April 20. They carried plastic bags overflowing with ripe capsicums from their fields and emptied them onto the road. Videos posted on YouTube show vehicles and autos inadvertently crushing the vegetables, turning them into a pulp as the farmers watch in despair.

Gora Singh stated that the farmers staged a protest to raise awareness among city dwellers regarding the real value of their produce.

Upon contacting private sellers and the horticulture department for further information, officials explained that vegetable markets across the country are being inundated with capsicum from every state, leading to a significant drop in prices.

In addition, erratic weather patterns have resulted in capsicum crops being harvested in all states simultaneously, further contributing to the surplus in the market. "Capsicum is harvested at different times and in different states. For example, West Bengal harvests it in February, while in Punjab, it arrives in March and continues until the market is saturated," stated Parmesher Kumar, an official from the horticulture department in Mansa.

According to Kumar, the low rainfall in West Bengal this year has resulted in an extended capsicum picking season, which overlaps with Punjab's harvest season. This has led to an excessive supply of capsicum in the markets.

In the meantime, private vendors in Mansa who collect produce from farms and transport it to mandis in Delhi and West Bengal have reported an influx of capsicum from Uttar Pradesh. Additionally, Haryana, which typically sends its produce late, has begun harvesting earlier than usual this year, exacerbating the situation further.

Farmers across all states are experiencing a decline in rates compared to previous years, leaving them with two options. They can either let their crop rot in the fields or sell it at lower prices. Surinder Pal, a contractor with CND, a vegetable vending company based in Ambala, stated that selling the produce, albeit at a lower price, is still preferable as it at least generates some income for the farmers.

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