Vegetable farmers out of business
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Hands on: Kamut, 48, tends to his cassava plants with a small amount of water taken from a nearby sewer in Rawakalong village in Grogol subdistrict. He is one of only a few farmers in Depok who are surviving the long drought. (JP/Yuli Tri Suwarni)
Semiyanto and other vegetable farmers in Depok, West Java, had lost any hope of raking in big profits in August when vegetable suppliers from other parts of the island were still on Idul Fitri holiday.
In spite of dominating the Jakarta markets, they failed to harvest the spinach, water spinach, melon and long beans they had grown in 20 hectares of farmland in Rawajati, Limo district.
“We have lost Rp 32 million [US$3,354] because of the harvest failure. We could not get enough water for the plants.
“We have been in this business for 20 years and this is the worst drought in the last 10 years because we have had to endure four months without water. We haven’t planted anything for two months now,” Semiyanto said on Wednesday.
He added that they also suffered from a long drought in 2009, but it lasted only two months.
Semiyanto and 36 other farmers in the area relied on irrigation to get water for their farms. They also have a 23-meter deep well as an alternative water source during the dry season, but the well has already run dry.
Hasan Ali, 68, is a vegetable farmer in Rawakalong village in Grogol subdistrict. He had stopped farming spinach and water spinach and has instead started looking for water hyacinth wildly grown in a drying fishpond next to his 7,000 square meters of land.
“You can say that I’m now out of a job because for two months I couldn’t get water in my farm. I have abandoned my rice field in Mampang for three months now because it’s useless to farm since there is no irrigation water,” he said, adding that he had lost potential income of between Rp 800,000 and Rp 1 million per month due to the drought.
The lack of supply in the market has pushed up the prices of vegetables in the market.
Supiah, 40, the owner of a vegetable stall on Jl. Cemara, Mampang, said that a bunch of spinach was now priced at Rp 1,500 and a bunch of water spinach was Rp 1,000, twice the price before the drought.
“Usually farmers around here drop their produce off to the stalls. Now we have to go out very early in the morning to the Kemiri market in Depok to buy vegetables where they are more expensive than buying them directly from farmers,” she said.
Semiyanto urged the government to pay more attention to the farmers, whose income continues to decrease as they struggle to survive the uncontrolled land conversion in the suburbs.
“Isn’t our contribution to society important? We don’t ask for much from the government, but right now we really need access to water during the dry season,” he said.
Depok Agriculture, Farming and Fishery Agency says that currently there are 900 farmers in the city who are grouped in 116 farmer associations. Only a few of them produce rice in a total of 359 hectares of rice fields while the others turned to growing fruits and vegetables.
According to the agency, the farm produce available now is not enough to meet the demand of the 1.8 million population, as a result, rice, vegetables and fruits must be exported from West Java’s other cities such as Bogor, Sukabumi and Bandung.