Malta farmers in Uttarakhand struggle to make a profit, despite government provisions.
Luxmi's video today tells us about the trials that small-scale farmers in Gairsen face in trying to make a living from farming malta, a type of citrus fruit. The biggest problem they experience is exploitation by middlemen. Since malta is locally grown in plenty by the community, the fruit is mostly taken out of the hilly areas and sold in the plains near Uttar Pradesh or exported. Although the Horticulture Department of Uttarkhand is supposed to be buying the fruit at a standard price, the logistics and bureaucracy involved with this process make the farmers reluctant to get involved, and instead take the easier option of selling their produce to middlemen who appear at their doorstep.
Since they live in the hilly areas, the terrain is difficult to navigate and the weather seasonal. Transporting the fruit becomes an an expensive investment. The Horticulture Department pays in cheques and not cash, and these sometimes take months to arrive. Malta typically ripens very fast and if not taken down, the trees break easily. They don't have adequate storage facilities. For all these reasons, the farmers are beset by huge losses of both produce and money. "Also," Luxmi explains, "they have traditionally sold all their fruit to the middlemen. They told me that this is what their ancestors did, so it is hard to break this tradition."
"I want these farmers to stop selling their fruit cheap to the middlemen, but they should have another option for this to happen," says Luxmi. "The Horticulture Department must not only set a standard price. They should also give transportation facilities, storage facilities. They should make it easy for the farmers. Otherwise this system won't work."
Many applications later, hundreds of people continue to suffer.
Formal applications to get new beds have been sent thrice to the local administration. But the situation hasn't changed.