Farmers in Ernakulam’s coastal area stare at loss, blame it on freakish weather and pests

Pokkali farming in Ernakulam district’s coastal areas has come a cropper this season.

The near drought-like condition during the replanting season and attacks by migratory birds had scuppered the chances of farmers that grew pokkali, the traditional salt resistant variety of rice.

In Chellanam panchayat, where pokkali has been a way of life for several decades, around 100 hectares of land was taken up for farming in early June. However, the rains were deficient during sowing and replanting, said an official of the Department of Agriculture. This led to poor harvest.

The lack of rain also forced farmers to let about 100 hectares lie fallow. They have, so far, been able to harvest only about 80 hectares of the total area.

In Edavanakkad panchayat, pokkali farming has met a similar fate. The farmers in the panchayat took up farming in more than 60 hectares, but they reaped a frustrating result. And the blame is on freakish weather.

It was quite a land-mark event when 60 hectares of land came under pokkali farming this season because in the past years farmers were forced to leave their fields fallow for lack of farm hands. But this season, the preparatory works were undertaken by roping in labourers who signed up for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.

In Elamkunnappuzha and Pallippuram panchayats, pokkali season has been equally disappointing. Lack of rain during the early part of the season forced farmers to abandon more than half of the area available for sowing. More than 50 hectares came under pokkali farming in Pallippuram, which was a big improvement over the last two seasons when the spades were rested.

In both the panchayats, however, the attack by purple moor hens has resulted in substantial crop loss.

An official of the department of agriculture said though steps were taken to combat the menace of migratory birds they were a little too late.

Firecrackers too were brought in, after consulting the Kerala Agricultural University, to scare away the birds towards the end of the harvest.

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