Farmers cry foul as new disease hampers watermelon production
MARGAO: A sudden breakout of a rare type of disease in watermelons has left the nearly 60 to 70 Verna farmers in shock. With its adverse impact, this rare type of disease has also resulted in loss of thousands of rupees to the farmers. Farmers have further claimed that it is the first time that they have witnessed such type of disease, which has damaged 95 percent watermelon farming. When GT scribe visited the farmers and the several wards at Verna it was revealed that the rare type of disease has almost resulted in total damage to the watermelon production. One of the farmers, Janer Braganza (76) claimed that he has witnessed such type of disease to watermelon farming for the first time in his entire life. Presently, the Agriculture Department is totally unaware of the situation. This rare type of disease has created an insect that is eating away the leaves within a night. Thereafter they set on the watermelons and damage the skin, resulting in a major loss. Farmers are unaware of the cause and type of disease. Speaking to GT, Janere Braganza said, "I am doing this watermelon farming since my childhood and I had never seen such type of disease to watermelons. This is a unique kind of insect that has damaged our watermelons. We really did not know how this has happened.” He has doubts about climate change. "Recently, we had noticed a huge dew formation and on the next one or two days, we notice the insect seen on the grown watermelons. And in next day the damaged skin of the watermelons was noticed in the fields,” said Dumiana Menezes, a farmer from Verna village. She also claimed that the damage to watermelon farming has resulted in nearly Rs 80,000 to 90,000 loss to her. Another woman named Francisca Abranches said, "I have left a large number of watermelons in fields and they are totally damaged due to the rare type of disease. With no option left we have to sell the few watermelons which are not affected by the insects.” She further said that all the watermelons which we can see with white color skin are the effect of the disease, of which farmers are unaware of the cause. "This year we are in total loss. Despite no harm inside the watermelons people take precautions before buying it. And we are bound to tell the truth. We have even noticed a huge decline in the sale of watermelons compared to last year," informed Carmina Abranches from Verna. Joao Baptist Travaso is also of the opinion that nobody is aware of this rare type of disease and insect that has badly affected the watermelon farming. "I do watermelon farming on a small scale but if calculated the loss will be nearly Rs 20, 000 to Rs 25,000." It may be noted that Verna is a village that is fully engaged in watermelon farming for many decades. Besides, watermelon farming in also seen in Utorda and Majorda in small scale. But the wards of Verna such as Dulape, Morod, and Mathol are the places where farmers do watermelon farming in a large number. Affected farmers have urged the government to intervene and compensate them. Presently, the agriculture department is totally unaware of this above incident. When contacted the Director of Agriculture Madhav Kelkar, he said that nobody has made him aware of the issue. "I will do the inquiry and will send my officers to do the inspection immediately,” he assured.