BHADUMARI, India, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Suicides among farmers in India reached 17,107 in 2003, and anecdotal reports suggest the trend is ongoing, a report said Tuesday.
The high suicide rates have been building for years and have been attributed in part to economic troubles facing the populous South Asian nation's agriculture industry, The New York Times said.
"The suicides are an extreme manifestation of some deep-seated problems which are now plaguing our agriculture," said M.S. Swaminathan, chairman of the National Commission on Farmers. "They are climatic. They are economic. They are social."
Economic reforms have given farmers access to foreign biotechnology, but they have also opened the door for international competition. The expensive biotechnology also causes many farmers to sink deeper into debt, the Times said.
A study by Srijit Mishra, a professor at the Bombay-based Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, found that 86.5 percent of farmers who committed suicide were in debt, 40 percent had their crops fail and more than half owned less than five acres of land.