Farmers expect the yield to be normal this season; problem of labour shortage looms large

Harvesting of samba paddy has begun in Tiruchi district and is expected to reach the peak over the next couple of weeks. Paddy has been raised on about 46,000 hectares (ha) in the district, including 37,000 ha in the canal-irrigated delta areas, sources in the Agriculture Department said. Although the department was expecting another 31,000 ha to be covered in the non-delta areas, about 9,000 ha was covered in these areas owing to the absence of rainfall.

Farmers in some parts of the district have already begun harvesting the crop over the last few days and initial reports indicate the yield is normal.

“We are expecting the yield to be normal this season. Farmers are reporting a yield of 35 to 40 bags (of 60 kg) at Panikampatti and neighbouring villages,” said R. Subramanian, deputy secretary, Cauvery Delta Farmers Welfare Association.

Although the crop in some villages on the Tiruchi-Karur border was affected by rice blast disease, farmers’ representatives say there may not be much impact.

“The disease was contained to a large extent and there may be a slight drop in yield in a few villages. But for this, the yield is expected to be normal,” said Puliyur A.Nagarajan, president, Tamil Nadu Horticulture Crop Producers Association. Harvesting will pick up over the next few days and completed in about 15 days in most places, except in villages where farmers have gone in for a late crop, he said.

However, the problem of labour shortage looms large. Given the shortage and steep rise in wages, many farmers are opting for harvestors, which is much cheaper. “For harvesting the crop in an acre manually, we have to give away seven or eight bags of paddy towards wages which works out Rs. 7,000. Using machines is much cheaper, even if we were to hire private harvestors at a maximum of Rs. 2,500 an acre,” said Mr. Subramanian.

Concurring with the view, Mr. Nagarajan said hiring machines from the Agricultural Engineering Department would be even cheaper.

P. Ayyakannu, State vice president, Bharathiya Kisan Sangam, wanted the Agricultural Engineering Department to make available at least two harvestors a block for being rented by farmers during the harvest season.

Sources in the department said that currently four harvestors were available in the district and depending on the demand, additional machines would be brought in from neighbouring districts.