The vegetables grown in Vasai, coveted by Mumbaikars for their freshness and quality, are rotting in the fields and small local growers are staring at mounting losses as the lockdown has caused the local market economy to collapse.
Nearly 2,000 marginal farmers are affected due to the lockdown as they have lost access to traders.
Farmers said they take their produce to the Holi bazar in Vasai where a host of traders and retailers buy in bulk.
“We only have local residents buying from us but that is just for Rs 20 or so. That will not cover our cost,” said a vegetable farmer Minal Pereira.
Vasai has at least 2,000 small vegetable growers, each with half an acre of land or less, growing okra, eggplant, beans, coriander, cauliflower and several leafy vegetables. In one season, that starts towards the end of January and continues till the rains, a farmer produces anywhere between 50 to 100 kg of vegetables.
Onil Almeida of the Sukh Sampatti Sanvardhak Sahakari Society pointed out that many farmers would themselves take their produce to Mumbai on the local train to sell. “We have written to the local administration that we should not depend on Mumbai and create a market here, so that farmers do not lose out,” he said.
Not just vegetable growers, even flower sellers, who would visit Dadar flower market regularly, are also in dire straits. “The flowers are wilting and will soon be overrun by insects. The losses are incalculable,” rued Subhash Bhatte, one such flower grower from Virar, who commutes to the Dadar flower market.
A former MLA and social worker Vivek Pandit, who had come up with the ‘Vasai fresh’ brand to create a market for the local produce, said the Holi bazar had a lot of produce coming from Nashik. “The small farmers who take their vegetables in baskets to sell on a daily basis are now left in the lurch.”
Steven Pereira Vegetable farmer
He had spent Rs 50,000 in his half-acre farm to grow a range of vegetables. Now, during harvest, he finds there are no takers. “Many of the traders we sell to in bulk come from Mumbai. With the trains shut, they are not around.
Others coming from neighbouring states have gone back to their native places. We are not allowed to sit at the market. My vegetables are perishing,” he said.
Claret Pereira Vegetable grower
She has already faced losses of Rs 6,000 in the last five days and she fears that the figure will keep rising till June. “While I normally make Rs 2,000 to 3,000 a day, I have lost double the amount in the last few days. The small quantities I sell to individual customers will not cover my input costs. I am disposing of the rotting vegetables in the field or using them as cattle fodder. I have thrown away batches of cauliflower,” she said.