COVID-19 impact: Chikoo farmers in Dahanu face 100 per cent wipe-out

Updated: Apr 06, 2020, 07:55 IST | Diwakar Sharma | Mumbai

Acute paucity of labour, transport, coupled with difficulty in crossing state borders, means orchards are rotting

Unplucked, chikoos ripen, fall off trees and perish
Unplucked, chikoos ripen, fall off trees and perish

Among the several industries hit by the lockdown are chikoo orchards in Dahanu. Chikoo farm owners, who were already struggling due to erratic rainfall for the past four years, said tonnes of produce is rotting amid no labour to pluck and transport them.

Chikoo is highly perishable and needs to reach consumers within 36 hours. But there is no transport available. Transporting the fruit ourselves is not an option as police are deployed at district and state borders. One truck can carry nine tonnes of produce. If police detain it, the fruit will perish," said Ronnie Irani, a chikoo farm owner from Dahanu.

"All ripened chikoos have fallen off the trees. It is a total loss," Irani added. On an average, one acre of land houses around 43 chikoo trees and earns farmers a profit of approximately '4,000 per month.

Trucks engaged in the transport business have been idle since the lockdown began
Trucks engaged in the transport business have been idle since the lockdown began

Transporter Milin Parekh said that his 30 trucks have been parked since the lockdown began. "There is a 100 per cent loss. We have to pay insurance and tax before a vehicle sets out. There is staff, drivers, assistant drivers, office boys and others who need to be paid. We can't afford to cut their salary. But I need to pay EMIs for the trucks," said Parekh who runs Trimurti Roadways.

Parekh's trucks transport construction material and chikoo from Dahanu to Mumbai, Vashi, Nagpur, Pune, Nanded, Nashik, Mathura and Delhi. Another chikoo farm owner Sanjay Adhia said, "We lost our crop during monsoon last year. Then because of rain and fungus we lost the winter crop. We had hoped for a good summer business, but now we can't sell the produce." Chikoo trees produce fruit for eight months in a year.

Justifying the lockdown, Adhia said, "I need eight labourers to pluck and transport the produce. That will defy the orders against assembly. Operating transport, shops and markets will defeat the purpose of social distancing. Hence, I feel that we shouldn't crib. In the long run, the lockdown
will benefit us."

Others suffering too
President of Dahanu Industries Association, Satish Parekh, said that industries such as cutlery, balloon, readymade garments, etc. too have incurred heavy losses.

"At least 200 workers would work at one balloon factory. There are at least 60 such factories in Dahanu. But we are paying our employees full salary," said Parekh, who owns Parekh Plastics. "There used to be a sale of R10 lakh per day and I was making a 10 per cent profit. So, you can imagine the loss. Whenever I reopen my factory, I will have to get the chilling plant and cooling towers cleaned. The machines have been idle for weeks," he added.

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