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Jaitapur affects mangoes

Tuesday, April 26, 2011
By Kunal Chonkar

Farmers warned against plucking fruits from orchards taken over by Nuclear Power Corporation

Farmers from the Ratnagiri belt, particularly those from Jaitapur, Holi, Hathkhamba, Madban, Mithagaon and several other villages, whose lands have been acquired for the proposed the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project (JNPP) have been threatened by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and state against plucking the king of fruits.

“We have been strictly warned and served notices against plucking mangoes off our farms, acquired for the JNPP,” said Ramesh Bhagwan Kajwe, a farmer from Jaitapur.

Kajwe, a fourth-generation farmer who owns almost 10 acres of land in the controversy-smeared JNPP is at his wits end. “I have almost 25,000 mango plantations in the project affected area. The trees are laden with fruit, and it is the perfect time to pick them before they start rotting,” said Kajwe.

According to him and several other farmers, the mango business fetches around Rs.16 lakh to Rs.18 lakh per farmer. Apart from the trucking of mangoes across the state and country, the demand for the king of fruits is high in Western markets, where mango is an exotic delicacy. “There is huge demand for the fruit in international markets. Almost 70 per cent of the harvest is exported to Western countries. However, the ‘no-pluck’ notice has hit us really hard,” said Rajendra Mahadiye, a mango farmer from Madban.

“Everyone involved in the business, right from the farmer to the packer, and all the others in the chain make money, which has now been reduced to peanuts,” added a disgruntled Mahadiye. Mangoes from Ratnagiri are mostly sent to cities like Kolhapur, Pune and Mumbai for processing.

“Over 10 lakh mango trees have been taken over by the JNPP. The decision to prohibit farmers from plucking the fruit is a deliberate one. It’s a strong-arm tatic employed by the state to break the people’s morale and make the locals submit to their terms,” alleged Pravin Gavankar, President of Janhit Seva Samiti, Ratnagiri. While no official from the JNPP was available for comment on the orders or the allegations leveled against them, members of the Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board (MSAMB) informed that the quantity of Ratnagiri alphonso received has dropped drastically.

Last year, unseasonal showers in January and February had damaged the crop in Ratnagiri and Devgad areas, causing panic amongst farmers and exporters. According to MSAMB statistics, in 2010, around 9.09 tonnes of mango were exported to the US and 5.56 tonnes to Japan. This year, however, nothing has been exported as yet to either of these countries.

“Besides mango, a drastic decrease has been observed in cashewnut and kokam too. If the trend continues, there will be a massive shortage which will eventually lead to massive price rise,” added an MSAMB member.

According to the farmers, this year’s yield from Konkan region has reduced by 30 to 35 per cent, taking a severe toll on exports. Traders are now exporting alphonso mangoes from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu by passing them off as Ratnagiri/Devgad alphonsos, informed the MSAMB member.

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