Low rates leave social forestry planters in despair

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Peasants in Prakasam district are in for a serious trouble as the prices of subabul, eucalyptus and casuarina logs continue to rule low despite increase in demand for paper.

Taking stock of the situation, farmer leaders at a meeting chaired by Prakasam District Development Forum president Ch. Ranga Rao here on Saturday decided to agitate demanding that the State government intervene to rein in the paper mills which drove down the prices for the logs, throwing to winds the agreements reached from time to time.

At the behest of the State Government, a tripartite agreement was reached in 2014 for the purchase of eucalyptus and casuarina at ₹4,400 per tonne and subabul at ₹4,200 per tonne. The prices were revised upwards in 2017 to ₹4,800 per tonne for eucalyptus and casuarina and ₹4,600 per tonne before they were brought back to old rates in 2019.

These rates had little relevance for the farmers as the prices realised for the logs were between ₹2,000 and ₹2,500 per tonne during the previous Telugu Desam Party regime as the paper mills bypassed the Agricultural Market Committees(AMCs) and procured logs directly from farms through their network of agents. The situation had not improved for the better even after YSR Congress Party assumed office, Mr. Ranga Rao said while briefing the media about the deliberations after the meeting.

It was unfortunate that the Agricultural Mission, which paid attention to market intervention for conventional crops, had left in the lurch farmers in the social forestry sector, complained Lok Satta Party leader Ch. Ratnakumari.

The farmers got only ₹2,300 per tonne for eucalyptus and casuarina and ₹2700 per tonne for subabul, incurring a loss of more than ₹1,000 per tonne.

‘No option’

“We will have no option but to uproot the trees if they are not offered at least ₹4,000 per tonne,” said a social forestry planter J. Venkateswara Rao from Jagarlamudivaripalem village. Farmers incur a production cost of ₹3,300 per tonne and take an average yield of 20 tonnes per acre.

Farmers in the drought-prone district who have been growing tobacco in a big way switched to social forestry plantations, thanks to encouragement from the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development.

Eucalyptus alone is grown in 1.10 lakh acres, subabul in 67,000 acres and casuarina in 9,000 acres in the district.

The district accounts for 43% of the cropped area under the social forestry plantations in the State.

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