Small onion growers seek compensation

Small onion growers in Perambalur and Tiruchi districts, a major shallot growing belt in the State, are worried over the persistent disease attack on the crop which, they say, has adversely hit yield.

The peculiar root rot disease, referred to as ‘thirugal noi’ in Tamil, has been worrying farmers for a couple of years. The incidence of the disease was widespread in the two district though the extent of damage varies. In some fields, the disease has completely damaged the crop, while in others it has caused over 60% of loss in yield.

The crop is normally raised on about 7,000 hectares in Perambalur district and more than 3,000 hectares in Tiruchi district.

Though officials and scientists have inspected some affected fields and suggested preventive measures and specific pesticides, farmers say that the recommended pesticides have not been effective in controlling the disease. Last week, a group of onion growers resorted to a protest at Sellipalayam near Thuraiyur demanding compensation for the crop damage. Farmers from Sellipalayam, Maruvathur, Sengattupatti, Narasingapuram and Ammampalayam, who participated in the protest, complained that the crop raised on about 1,500 acres have been severely damaged.

Farmers had been raising the issue at the agriculture grievances meetings in these districts.

The disease has caused extensive damage causing severe losses to farmers, said R.Raja Chidambaram, state secretary, Tamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam.

“Despite applying pesticides recommended by officials and scientists, the disease could not be controlled. Farmers should be compensated after proper enumeration but at the same time we should strive to find a permanent solution,” he said seeking a special campaign like the one taken up over to check the incidence of Fall Armyworm in maize.

The disease is causing at least 60 to 70% of loss in yield, says D.Srinivasan, a farmer of Renganathapuram. “In a good season, we harvest up to six to seven tonnes of small onions in an acre. Now, we are sustaining heavy losses after spending up to ₹30,000 an acre. No official has inspected our fields,” he said as he awaits compensation from the insurance company for the crop damage he has suffered this season.

R. Arunachalam of Nagalapuram near Thuraiyur said the disease starts affecting the crop when it is about 30 to 35 days old and the problem has been persisting for two years now.

“We are all small farmers in our village; some have lost the crop fully and others have sustained 50 to 75% yield loss,” he said urging the government to sanction a compensation of at least ₹10,000 an acre from the State Disaster Response Fund. Some farmers insist that the officials should ensure that the affected onions were not used as seeds in the following seasons to check the recurrence of the disease. But this, they concede, would be easier said than done.

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