Farmers share concerns at open discussion on safe food

Bhubaneswar: The BJD and Congress are both gearing up to take to the streets to highlight farmers’ plight. While the ruling party will hold demonstration in 14 blocks in the state from July 10 to July 18, Congress will gherao block offices across the state on July 7, demanding an increase in MSP of paddy and farm loan waiver.

Amid all the politics, Tankapani Road here on Saturday saw an interesting interaction between farmers, vegetable traders and consumers on safe food. During the open discussion, the farmers and traders spoke about problems they face while selling their produce. “People instinctively prefer to eat vegetables with bright colours. Capitalising on it, farmers often use dyes to improve their sale. This has also led increased use of fertilisers and pesticides,” said Gadadhar Swain, a trader.

Laxmidhar Swain, a farmer, rued his decision to take up farming. He continues to stay in a small hut, which often get destroyed in floods. He is also facing problems in arranging his daughter’s marriage. “My friends who continued their studies are better off today,” he said.

Srinivas Pradhan, another farmer, shared his experience of growing vegetables using bio manure. “I had used hormones for better yield, but the vegetables didn’t taste good. People do buy my ‘desi’ produce, but they are few and far between,” he said.

Bikram Behera, a trader, said since hybrid vegetables cost less, people prefer them over the ‘desi’/’indigenous’ ones.

The farmers said they feel let down when people bargain with them. “We put in so much effort to grow the vegetables, but people never acknowledge it,” said Hatnath Pradhan.

The farmers also spoke about loans that they had to take to buy pesticides and fertilisers and how they are getting poorer day by day.

Several farmers have turned construction workers as it guarantees at least Rs 300 a day. “The government should take steps to promote farming before farmers decides to sell his plough to run his family,” said Ramesh Chandra Swain, a trader.

The interaction organised by Living Farms under its programme, ‘India for Eco Food Campaign’, dwelled on the need to go back to traditional practices using agro-ecological practices like vermi-compost and bio-manures  to ensure safe food for all.

It was attended Puspa Das, Corporator of Ward 58, Rajendra Kumar Sahu, former Sarpanch of Sarkana, Rajkishore Swain, secretary of Maa Tankapani Road Byabasayi Sangh and Dr.Jagatabandhu Mohapatra, Program Coordinator of India for Eco Food Campaign.

The guests spoke about how important was it for the consumers to know their farmers and the food they eat. To save time, people have taken to fast food, which lack nutrition. This is one of the reasons for children repeatedly failing ill, they said.

Jagdish Nayak, Organic Food Marketing Specialist of India for Eco Food Campaign, moderated the session.