Farmers cultivate the cash crop eyeing good returns
Bandlamudi Suresh calls out to a group of woman agricultural workers and asks them to evenly spread out rows of chilli pods.
Toss a query on the possibility of the fresh crop getting contaminated with dust and other foreign material, besides fading out in colour due to bleaching effect of sun, he is quick to respond: “Where is the choice? We don’t have state-of-the-art technology to prevent these shortcomings.”
Mr. Suresh is a farmer from Dachavaram village under Veerulapadu mandal in Krishna district. He owns 22 acres of land, most of which was brought under paddy, cotton and maize cultivation. “I opted for chilli this time because I wanted to experiment with this cash crop,” he says.
Farmers of Dachavaram village cultivated chilli in over 100 acres in the past. But over the years, the acreage has come down to 25-odd acres owing to inability of farmers to afford to the heavy investment it requires.
“Chilli can’t withstand heavy moisture and the cop requires irrigation only when it is necessary. Frequent and heavy irrigation can induce excess vegetative growth and cause flower-shed,” he says, trying to tear apart a few pods to show the high pungency level. “Moreover, pests like root grub can damage the chilli plants by feeding on the root system. The infested plants die and can easily be identified,” he explains.
“Chilli requires a lot of upfront investment. The farmer gets returns only after sustained efforts. This factor discourages many to take up the crop,” says V. Madhava Rao, a progressive farmer, who has set up a dairy farm close to the village. Chilli has attracted farmers of this area for its good returns. A quintal of chilli can fetch a farmer Rs. 7,500.
If Andhra Pradesh is the largest producer of chilli in the country, Guntur has a major share in it. And farmers in Krishna district are taking cue from them by trying their hand in cultivating the crop for lucrative returns.