SONAPUR, Feb 3 - Bimal Ronghang, an orange farmer at Marlap village on the picturesque Assam-Meghalaya border in Kamrup (Metro) district, barely earned two-three rupees per orange till two years back due to the presence of a thriving middleman racket.
The racket that was feeding on the ignorance and the lack of market linkage, financial support and organisational strength of the orange cultivators compelled the distressed farmers to sell their produce at throwaway prices.
Things changed when the 200-odd orange growers from the villages Bandorgog, Marlap, Magursilla, Markang, Pithagog, Psemsoru, Kalongpur and Kasongmolla came together to form a farmer producers’ organisation (FPO) under a NABARD initiative with Kalong Kapili, an NGO, as collaborator.
Mahanta Ronghang, president of Ampri Langpee Orange Growers Society, an FPO, said that the farmers were now earning Rs 7-9 per orange, something unthinkable a couple of years back.
“Market linkage was the biggest problem for us and this left us at the mercy of the middlemen to whom we used to give our orchards in lease at very cheap rates. Poor road conditions too hindered us from sending our produce in bulk. But following the NABARD intervention and facilitation of market linkage by Kalong Kapili, trucks collect our produce right from our orchards and we are getting remunerative prices,” Ronghang said.
“What the farmers were enduring was prolonged distress sale for years despite their toil. Now we are an organised lot and have direct access to the market. Institutional finance from the Assam Gramin Vikash Bank, Sonapur branch, too, has come as another boon,” he said, adding that the State agriculture department was also helping the farmers.
Ronghang said that regular buyer-seller meets were being organised at the project area where both the parties agree to do business by fixing the rates of oranges size-wise. The growers also decide upon the pick-up points for the oranges.
This year, as per size-wise grading, the price for a small-size orange was fixed at Rs 7, for a medium-size orange at Rs 8, and for a big orange at Rs 9.
Jyotish Talukdar of Kalong Kapili said that the main objectives behind forming the FPO were to maximise the profit margin and minimise the hardships of the orange growers. “This has now been achieved and we need to sustain the trend,” he added.
The entire stretch of the orange cultivation area is located on a hilly terrain area interspersed by sparsely-populated villages inhabited mostly by the Karbi community.