Cold storages at loss because of Covid-19

City Covid-19 Mysore Pandemic

Cold storage owners in the city are at a loss as they have to run the facility despite not many farmers turning up to store their produce.

Mysuru: Ramu, the owner of BTC warehouse in Vidyaranyapuram that has cold storage facilities for farm produce is worried over his business prospects. As Covid-19 has spread to rural areas, and agriculture activities are not in full swing, cold storage owners fear losses. 

“It’s getting very hard to maintain the warehouse now. The expenses every month go up to Rs 5 lakh, with around Rs 2.5 lakh for electricity alone, and with not many farmers and producers coming forward to store their produce in the storage, I feel I’m in for a huge loss in the offing,” Ramu said. 

Products already stored in the warehouse will get ruined if the facility does not run. With payment to electricity and labourers, Ramu, already reeling under the pressure of heavy bills, feels the situation does not get better anytime soon. 

“Farmers don’t come in large numbers anymore, last year the situation was better, this year it has gotten worse,” he added. 

Ramu has ginger, turmeric, pulses among others in his facility. But that number has gone down too now. He charges a monthly rent of Rs 12.50/quintal and he stores up to 5000 quintals in the warehouse. “I have not regularly paid salaries to the staff yet,” Ramu said.  

Manjunatha has been working as a labourer at BTC for over six to seven years now. “There has been literally zero people coming in to store their produce since the second wave struck, we have not been paid regular salaries, but the owner tries to bridge the gap by paying for ration and small things like that,” Manjunatha said. 

“Since the warehouse is a cold storage facility, not many want to come here because of the fear of Covid-19. We don’t want to be working at low temperatures too at this point, but we don’t have a choice,” he added. 

Cold storage facilities help farmers store their produce, especially perishable commodities to extend their shelf life. The Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) have their own cold storage facilities set up by the government but Mysuru district does not have one. 

Nilesh, the owner of AV Sheshadri Shetty (AVS) cold storage facility in Kadakola Industrial Area, Mysuru district admitted that Covid-19 has affected his business. “Goods movement has gone down, and we can’t shut down the facility because if we switch it off, stored goods will get ruined,” he said. Nilesh stores farm produce for farmers in Chamarajanagar, KR Nagar, and other taluks in Mysuru. 

“I charge Rs 2,500 for 10 tonnes of any produce brought in, and since I have not got any new business lately, it has affected my regular expenses,” Nilesh added. 

Jitendra Bapna, of Agarwal Traders produces mustard seeds and uses BTC cold storage to store his produce. It’s been three months since he has stored them, and now he does not want to go there to keep his new produce. “My old produce that has been stored there has not been procured yet. I am at a loss because I cannot go there to get it, and unless I do, I cannot sell them,” he said. 

“The government should waive off electricity bills or waive off loans or the interest so that private cold storage owners do not have to suffer. At least 50 percent of farming activities and transportation have come down as Covid-19 has reached the rural areas now. This was bound to happen,” said Chaluvegowda, professor of economics at SBRR Mahajana First Grade College in Mysuru. 

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