K. A. MARTIN , The Hindu
New problem for farmers is in addition to poor monsoon and high fertilizer prize
A rain deficit and spiralling price of fertilizers have combined to turn 2012 into one of the worst years for farmers in Kerala in recent memory.
Adding to their woes is the introduction of the new system for payment of various subsidies through bank accounts, prompting many small-time farmers to even forgo the government doles.
The introduction of the new subsidy payment regime, aimed at ending malpractices, has resulted in farmers not getting any benefit so far though the first season paddy crop is only about a month away from harvest.
V. Gangadharan, a paddy farmer in Palakkad, says that those who bought fertilizers for the first crop have not received any money so far though he feels that the new system will be of help in the long run.
K. Krishnamurty, paddy farmer, fears that subsidies will come late this year. The new system is proving cumbersome for farmers and the mandatory registration of farmers, despite several deadlines, is not complete yet, he says.
K. R. Jyotilal, Secretary, Agriculture, says that the new system is being streamlined though there are a few technical hitches. One of the problems, he says, is the treasury-bank link, which is being looked into. Otherwise the system is working perfectly, he says pointing out that farmers’ pension under Swabhiman scheme is being disbursed through the new system.
Mr. Jyotilal says there are some vested interests spreading canards about the regime.
Paddy cultivation has been the hardest hit by poor rains as exemplified by Palakkad, where yield is likely to be down by about 40 per cent. Besides, the harvest will be delayed because of the dry conditions. In Alappuzha, both Pokkali areas and Kuttanad have been hit by the monsoon shortfall.
About 150 hectares of Purakkad Karinilam lies fallow for the ongoing Virippu season because of excess soil acidity, which traditionally used to be treated with rain water. Around 250 hectares of Pokkali fields are remaining fallow for want of rain. Forty hectares of Pokkali, which came under sowing, does not promise normal yield, according to sources in the Agriculture Department.
A total of 12,000 hectares have come under the Virippu crop this season though the crop is at various stages between 30 and 60 days. Sources point out that the lack of rain threatened to hit the upcoming Puncha season, during which larger areas come under paddy in the district.
Cool season vegetable production in the high ranges of Idukki district is down about 50 per cent because of unseasonal rain. Rains in May caused potato seed stocks waste and poor rains in early June created a drought-like situation in Vattavada and Kanthalloor areas.
V.V. Pushpangadhan, chief executive officer of Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council Keralam, says that the present estimate is that potato production in the two areas will be down about 50 per cent this season.
Production of other cool season vegetables like beans, carrot and cabbage as well as garlic has been hit by lack of rains in the high ranges this year.
Despite poor offtake this season, fertilizer prices continue to move up. Price of the popular fertilizer mixture Factamfos is hovering around Rs.19,000 a tonne this season compared to Rs.14,000 last year. Similarly, the price of muriate of potash has gone up to Rs.16,700 a tonne from the previous level of Rs.12,000, industry sources said.
Ammonium sulphate, though not widely used in Kerala, has also seen price moving up a little this season to hover around Rs.11,000 a tonne from the previous level of Rs.10,000.
Urea, the price of which is still controlled by the government, has not seen any appreciation leading people to use an excess of the input this Virippu season, sources said.