Covid-19 Lockdown: Tobacco Farmer Commits Suicide Due to Farm Crisis

Tobacco farmers are getting pushed under the mounting debt burden and are finding it hard to meet their ends.

Reflecting the farm crisis that is getting intensified across the Flue Cured tobacco growing areas of Nellore and Prakasam districts, a tobacco farmer from Gundemadakala village, of Nellore district, Cheemala Raghurami Reddy aged 62, took the extreme step of ending his life by consuming pesticides on 18th April 2020.

Farming enterprise in the region is becoming non-profitable due to consecutive years of unfavorable weather conditions leading to successive years of losses. In the current year too, unusual rains hampered the crop growth and impacted the cured leaf quality thus pushing the growers into potential losses.

Consequently small and marginal farmers of the region as Raghurami Reddy are getting pushed under the mounting debt burden and are finding it hard to meet their ends.

Intensifying the farm crisis further, the auctions that started in the region in the month of February 2020 got stalled due to incidence of Covid-19 and the lock down that followed. Consequently the growers have not been able to sell their produce and thus are unable to even pay the dues to workers who are operating in their fields. Buckling under the pressure from formal and informal sources of farm loans and unable to pay the wages to workers Raghurami Reddy, who grew tobacco and cotton on own and leased lands totalling to 22 acres, chose to find solace by ending his life.

Farmers and their associations opine that to prevent the farm crisis, there is an urgent need to prepare a comprehensive plan in a coordinated effort by various state and central government departments including an immediate resumption of auctions, tobacco movement, handling & processing by exporters, shipments for exports and domestic cigarette factories apart from extending financial assistance to the farming community.

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