Why are farmers wary of corporates? These Kerala farmers have a tale to tell

Kerala farmers are now keeping their fingers crossed — not only for justice in their case, but also for victory of farmers protesting in Delhi | Image - Eunice Dhivya

Alibhai, a coconut farmer in Kerala, isn’t aware of the ongoing protest against the new farm laws, at the Delhi border. The 67-year-old finds it strenuous to read the newspaper because of his weakening eyesight. Nor does he find his smartphone user-friendly. Old age ailments and a fading memory have made Alibhai weak. But despite his age and health, he can’t think of retiring. For, he has to repay a loan he took 16 years ago.

Back in 2003-04, Alibhai was among the many farmers in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to be wooed by alluring advertisements to try their luck with a new crop — safed musli, a medicinal herb.

At least 80 farmers from the three states engaged in a tripartite contract with Hyderabad-based Nandan Biomatrix and its Kerala franchisee Herbz India.

The agreement stipulated that the company would provide seeds at ₹500 per kg. The farmers had to cultivate the herb at their own cost and the company would buy the crop at a price not less than ₹1,000 per kg of dry musli.

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