An increase in demand for turmeric during the COVID-19 pandemic helped Indian farmers mitigate the effects of low output in recent months, according to reports.
The increase in consumption of the yellow spice as an antioxidant is said to be one of the factors that contributed to the considerable increase in exports and prices. The government and Ayurvedic practitioners recommend consuming some amount of turmeric daily for better post-COVID management.
India is the largest producer of turmeric, accounting for 70-75 per cent of the world’s total production. According to official statistics, last year the country exported 1,81,664 tonnes of turmeric, a rise of 36 per cent over 2019.
Farmers’ associations said demand will further go up this year, to cross the 2 lakh-tonne mark.
However, the associations said prices have also surged to multi-year highs due to crop damage. Heavy rains in October 2020 caused flooding and higher moisture, leading to fall in output in key states of Telangana, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
Nizamabad is one of the biggest centres of turmeric trade in Telangana. Farmers here prefer to sell their produce at Maharashtra’s Sangli market yard, the biggest turmeric market yard in India. In turn, major exporters in Mumbai buy their stock from Sangli.
According to reports, high-quality turmeric sold at an all time record rate of ₹30,000 per quintal at Sangli on Tuesday (February 2).
In Nizamabad, which receives around 10,000 quintals per day, the average price is between ₹7,000 and ₹7,500. Last year, the yellow spice fetched farmers between ₹5,500 and ₹6,200.
“We were initially worried about the drastic fall in output, from 25 quintal per acre to 15 quintal, due to heavy rains. But the increased prices have brought us relief,” Telangana Turmeric Farmers Association president K Narasimha Naidu told The Federal.
“We don’t have the exact data on the increase in turmeric consumption on account of COVID-19, but the 36 per cent rise in exports last year… this has never happened in the past ten years,” he said.
Cause for Optimism
In Nizamabad around 50,000 acres has been given over to turmeric cultivation. But this year it shrank to 36,000 acres, as farmers were discouraged by poor returns for four consecutive years. The current prices may encourage farmers to increase cultivation.
Ruling TRS party MLC Kalvakuntla Kavitha said farmers would get assured prices only when a turmeric board is set up in Nizamabad.
In the run-up to the 2019 general election, the BJP promised to set up a turmeric board in Nizamabad. Its candidate, Arvind Dharmapuri, won the seat, but the promise remains unfulfilled.