Pineapple farmers of Khousabung stare at grim prospect
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, August 02 2020: Even as the battle against coronavirus rages on, pineapple farmers of the State particularly, Khousabung areas of Churachandpur district are in distress despite the hope of good harvest and consequently are staring at a grim prospect.

Nation-wide lockdown has been in force since March in an attempt to tide over the global pandemic.

Movement has been restricted and business transaction has almost come to a grinding halt.

Even as lockdown is being eased for farmers by the Central and State Governments, this exemption is likely to fail to bring any relief to farmers as they struggle to sell their produces.

Pineapple farmers of Khousabung stare at grim prospect
Pineapple farmers of Khousabung stare at grim prospect

Cash crop farmers, such as pineapple farmers of Churachandpur are hit hard and the marketing avenues are closed.

Situation has become gloomier or worst with the State going for the second round of lockdown.

J Hechuon, a progressive pineapple farmer of Bunglon raises his children, gives them education with the money he makes from pineapple farming.

But this year, he is a worried lot.

Although he had the bright prospect of earning some money, his dream is shattered due to the pandemic-induced lockdown.

Now, the anxiousness is: Will he be able to sell the pineapple he had nurtured for the last one year? Certainly not.

Will the produces lay rotten in the field? In all likelihood.

That amounts to immeasurable labour and financial losses.

The predicament they were in through unforeseen circumstances has deprived hundreds of pineapple farmer of their sleeps.

Their worry is compounded with traders likely unable to make their way into their village and buy their yield.

Unlike other cash crops, where storing of the produces is a viable option; pineapple farmers of the area have no such storage facility.

Hundreds of restless Hechuons are galore.

A random survey said that about 45 households of Khousabung village are engaged in pineapple cultivation in an area covering 154 acres; 36 households of Bunglon village are involved in the cultivation in an area of about 130 acres.

About 19 households of Harmontlang village cultivated pineapple in 52 acres; 45 households of Jolzam village cultivated in about 65 acres of land while about 24 households of S Nabil are involved in pineapple cultivation across 66 acres of land.

Another five households of L Phainuom, Ningthiching and Khoirentak Khuman villages cultivated pineapple on 13 acres of land.

Pineapple has been a life-sustaining cash crop of the area for the last many decades.

In good times, they marketed their produces in Imphal and Churachandpur apart from selling them in local markets such as Moirang and nearby marketplaces.

Now, normal business cannot happen in these markets.

At the most, they are open for a very limited time.

In the past years, traders would come and buy pineapple at the rate of Rs 14 per kilogram from the farm and the same quantity was sold at Rs 20-30 in the markets.

This year, no traders have come forward to buy the fruit at the field.

The pineapple price has plummeted in the market and is sold at Rs 7/8 per kg at the market.

The loss or decay of over 21,000 tons of pineapple is unimaginable.

"This unprecedented misfortune never besieged the pineapple farmers in the 70 years history of pineapple cultivation in the area since it was first started in 1947," remarked Zen Gangte, chief of Khousabung.

He then urged the Govt to act and salvage labour loss and compensate its hardworking farmers adequately.

A progressive farmer from Khousabung, Mr Ginzalal said, "We have experienced the impact of Covid-19 outbreak for the past many weeks.

As it seems, there is no likelihood of any improvement in the situation.

As such, it is inevitable that our produces go to waste.

"In the past, we transported and sold our produces at Imphal, Churachandpur, Moirang and other local markets.

But now, we have no options left for transporting our produces to Imphal and other big markets," said K David, another pineapple farmer from Bunglon.

"Earlier traders used to come and buy pineapples from the field, but this time such traders would not take the risk.

Apart from the pandemic, we are battling on two fronts: price of essential commodities has plummeted while on the other hand our source of income is gagged," says Vavak Kom, another distress farmer from Harmontlang.

A couple of days back, unable to watch their ripe pineapples lying unharvested and decayed, a group of women plucked pineapples from their field, packed and loaded them in a carrier vehicle.

However, not long after, they were in for another uncertainty.

Where will they take them? Unsettled though, the women headed to the district headquarters with their produces at an odd hour with the hope of returning home before dawn and the police crackdown on curfew violators began.

They dared not to tread the main road for fear of harassment of drivers by police.

They decided and thus navigated their way through IVRs and managed to reach their destination.

Feeling this particular ordeal so tedious, the women group knocked every possible door to get movement permit/vehicle pass.

However, there was no respite to their plight.

"The pineapple farmers are certainly plunging into unanticipated disaster now.

How the Govt responds to this humane tragedy and the consequent distress call is awaited with bated breath," says Ng Sang, a pineapple farmer from Khousabung.

Asking the Govt to intervene to ease or mitigate the hardship faced by the pineapple farmers, Sang said the prolonged silence of the Govt on this matter would be construed as a signal to discontinue legal cultivation of cash crop and the farmers would certainly seek other means.

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