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Social Forestry Planters in Prakasam District Demand Government Intervention Amidst Growing Frustration

The APRS representatives urged the YSRCP government to restore the pre-eminent role of the AMCs and provide a revolving fund to ensure farmers receive a remunerative price for their logs.

Shivam Dwivedi
Social Forestry Planters in Prakasam District Demand Government Intervention Amidst Growing Frustration (Photo Source: Pixabay)
Social Forestry Planters in Prakasam District Demand Government Intervention Amidst Growing Frustration (Photo Source: Pixabay)

Social forestry planters in the drought-prone Prakasam district have been facing challenges in obtaining fair prices for their subabul and eucalyptus logs. A ray of hope emerged when a well-known integrated pulp, paper, and paperboard mill from Erode, Tamil Nadu expressed interest in purchasing the logs at an attractive price in Chimakurthy.

However, their joy was short-lived as local brokers with ties to paper mills in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana prevented the transportation of the logs to Pallipalayam in Erode.

A group of farmers who had grievances contacted a delegation from the Andhra Pradesh Rythu Sangam (APRS) during their visit to the social forestry plantations in and around Chimakurthy. Muvva Malakondaiah, a social forestry planter, expressed his disappointment by stating that they had supported the ruling YSR Congress Party in 2019 because they had promised to ensure a remunerative price of Rs 5,000 per tonne for the logs. However, according to him, Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy's indifference to their plight had caused the price to plummet to Rs 1,000 per tonne.

Recalling the efforts made by the previous Telugu Desam Party Government, Malakondaiah mentioned that an agreement had been brokered with paper mill representatives, establishing a price of Rs 4,000 per tonne for subabul and Rs 4,200 per tonne for eucalyptus. Another farmer, Muvva Mahendra, complained about the decline in log prices during the YSRCP regime, attributing it to the government's failure to intervene.

The farmers alleged that local paper mill brokers were preventing them from selling their produce to Tamil Nadu-based paper mills. These farmers, who traditionally cultivated crops such as tobacco, red gram, and Bengal gram, shifted to social forestry plantations in the 1990s, focusing on subabul, eucalyptus, and casuarina. Thanks to the support from the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, the extent of these plantations grew to over 2.50 lakh acres.

Pamidi Venkat Rao, the APRS Prakasam district general secretary, explained that the Agricultural Market Committees (AMCs) previously regulated the trade in logs to ensure farmers received a fair price. However, in recent years, the paper mills bypassed the AMCs and began procuring logs directly through brokers at lower prices. Bezawada Srinivasa Rao, the APRS district vice-president, emphasized that the network of local paper mill brokers dashed the farmers' hopes of obtaining a fair price for their produce, despite the increased demand for paper and paper products.

At a time when the import of wood pulp should be discouraged and deforestation minimized, the extent of land under social forestry has decreased to less than one lakh acres. The need for action is urgent, and they hope that the government takes necessary measures to support the struggling social forestry planters in Prakasam district.

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