Bhopal/Chandigarh: At a time when food prices are at a 23-week high, the extreme cold caused more problem by damaging crops across north India.
Pulse farmer Tejram of Narsinghpur district, the pulse bowl of India stared at a bad crop as cold wave and frost has destroyed everything he and his family cultivated this year. Last year, he produced pulses that fetched him Rs 1 lakh.
Tamar Singh of the same village wondered how to repay the loans he took to buy the pulse seeds.
"The rising prices are already killing and on top of this we have lost all what he had sown. I have lost seeds worth over one thousand," said Singh.
The dal mills in the Hoshangabad and Narsinghpur districts that produce top quality pulses are likely to face shortage of raw pulses. As a result there could be another round of a spike in pulse prices across the country. Most pulses had crossed Rs 100 a kilo last year.
The state government has reacted to farmer protests. But there was little action.
"We want agriculture into a profit making industry and for this we have taken several steps. Farmers who have suffered losses would be adequately compensated," said Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan.
In Punjab, winter is playing havoc with vegetables. Over almost 1.75 lakh hectares of tomatoes, peas, potatoes and cucumbers have been damaged. Farmers said wayward weather is adding to their burden of high debt
"We are already facing debts and now the weather is making things difficult for us," said Amarjit Singh and Jatinder Singh, farmers from Ludhiana.
Agriculture experts said the cold conditions are going to continue for some time and suggest use of plastic tunnels to protect crops.
"We have to have a crackdown against the wholesale trade, retail trade across the country - it should not only be income tax raids only, but there should be raids for hoarding and speculation. Also, we should future trade on agriculture should be completely banned. And most importantly, we should ensure that there is not only be minimum support price for the farmers, there should also be a maximum retail price for the trade," said AS Dhat an expert from Punjab Agriculture University, Ludhiana.
But farmers feel that the solution is too costly. In Madhya Pradesh, debt has reportedly led to five farmer suicides in the last one month. It's a wake up call for the central government and states and time to put the finger on the pulse of the problem, than live in denial.