MUMBAI, June 1 (Reuters) - Farmers from India’s western state of Maharashtra started an indefinite strike on Thursday, curtailing the supply of vegetables, fruits and milk to cities like Mumbai in a move that could push up food prices in the coming days.
Indebted farmers are demanding a waiver on loans from the government of the big farming state similar to the $5.6 billion in debt forgiveness announced by the northern state of Uttar Pradesh in April.
“We were forced to strike as the chief minister couldn’t assure us that a loan waiver will be implemented quickly,” said farmers’ leader Dhanjay Jadhav, who met Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and other state representatives on Tuesday.
Maharashtra needs to spend 305 billion rupees ($4.73 billion) to write off debts owed by 3.2 million farmers, Fadnavis had said in April.
“We will continue to strike until our demands of loan waiver and remunerative prices for agriculture produce are met. Instead of sending vegetables and milk to the cities, we will dispose of them in our villages,” Jadhav said.
On Thursday morning, farmers in the state blocked vehicles ferrying vegetables and milk to cities and dumped their loads of produce on to the road in many places.
“Farmers have set up check posts on national highways to ensure vehicles carrying vegetables and fruits cannot enter the city,” said a trader based at Vashi market on the outskirts of Mumbai.
“Prices have started to rise due to lower supplies. If tomorrow trucks fail to enter into the market then prices could rise sharply,” he said.
In April, farmers from Tamil Nadu demanding debt relief staged a grisly protest in New Delhi, pretending to eat live rats and showing the skulls of neighbours who they said had committed suicide. ($1 = 64.4650 rupees) (Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Douglas Busvine)