A story of how few rain showers changed the whole game in the melon fields

Dhanasekar, Sampath, Dhanansezhian are few of the hundreds of farmers who are cultivating watermelon in Nadukuppam village, around 100 kms away from Chennai. Most of the farmers in that area have the practice of growing watermelons at the end of every year so that the crops come to harvest by end Feb / early March of the next year.

Following the same trend, these 3 also started their land preparations in November and had sown the seeds in Dec. Things went well and the crops flourished. Rainfall in the state was lower than the normal range and these farmers have irrigation source and had installed drip irrigation. The drought spell did not affect them much. Along with many farmers, these three were hoping that the overall production will be low due to drought and hence prices might soar. By around early Feb when the fruits started to mature, the prices went high and as expected the rates were in the range of Rs 13 to 15 per kg. The average yield that the farmers in this area get is around 10 tonnes per acre, which gives them around 1.3 to 1.5 lacs per acre. The per acre spend will be almost 60K and that gives them a profit of 60-90K. These are the rough mind calculations that every farmer has when they start the crop.

Fruits came to harvest starting from mid-Feb and the prices were also high. This boosted the confidence levels of the farmers and they were delighted by the price being maintained around Rs 12 per Kg. Farmers who had sown the seeds in early December had started their harvest in mid-Feb and got good profits. Average weather was very hot at this time and the melons had a good market.

Our three farmers had sown the seeds by end Dec and hence their fruits will come to harvest by end Feb. Over the last 2 weeks of Feb, the weather started to change and the forecast of a depression created a panic in the minds of farmers who were yet to harvest their crop. The weather started to become cooler and there were few instances of showers in the southern region of the state. From Rs 12 per Kg, the rates started to drop. It became 10, 9, 8, 7 by March 1st. The number of buyers, who usually come from Bangalore, Kerala has also started to decrease. The traders were not sure of the weather. If it rains, the sale of watermelons would drop and the stock they procure would go in vain. The traders wanted to take a cautious step and hence were not procuring the melons but waiting. On the other hand, the fruits in the fields started to ripen and have to be sold immediately otherwise they will rot and all the efforts of the farmer will go in vain.

In the first week of March, things became worse and it was just a matter of 4 days that the price came down to Rs 6 per Kg from Rs 12 per kg. Our 3 farmers would go to a nearby town early in the morning to see if there are any buyers who came to procure the melons and for consecutively 3 days they could not find a buyer. All these days, whenever I went to a super market or a fruit stall in the city, the watermelon rates on the shelf was Rs 25 per kg always. It really hurt me when I saw Rs 25 per Kg, while the farmer gets Rs 6 per Kg. Well, I thought it’s always the farmers who take the hit and no one else.

When I was driving over the weekend to visit the farmers who are working with I Support Farming, I met the three. We referred them to our sources and arranged a buyer and today March 6, the farmers harvested around 30 tons each and sold the melons at a premium rate, a little above the market price. By overall economic calculations, they got a profit and are satisfied. They are busy thinking about their next sowing – Musk Melon. But the opportunity that they lost by a matter of a week still lingers in our minds. Yes, if they had harvested a week before, they would have got double their returns.

It is all a matter of few rain showers that have changed the entire scenario and the buyers/ traders becoming skeptical. This is about just three farmers in a small village in TamilNadu and a matter of Rs 12 Lac rupees that came down to Rs 6 Lacs for these three. Now, Imagine the millions of farmers across the state and the millions of tons of yield. And still, the market rate of the melons are Rs 25 per Kg.

Isn’t it A very big problem to solve? Do let us know your thoughts on how do we solve these?