Farmers of Arikkulam panchayat the worst hit by winds

K. Abdulla surveys the destruction from a distance. He then heaves a long sigh and signals the agricultural assistant from Krishi Bhavan to follow him. The duo walk past the plantain trees, broken in half with half-ripe fruits lying twisted among the torn leaves, on Mr. Abdulla’s 10 cents. The official has come to survey the farmer’s loss caused by the unexpected spate of heavy rains and winds which hit the district last week.

The land was taken on lease this year by him. The plantain trees were his maiden investment in agriculture. He had planted them in time for the festive season. But last week’s heavy rains and strong winds had caught him by surprise.

The winds had flattened his trees, nipped his dreams in the bud. Mr. Abdulla’s land stands on the 600-acre green spread of Veliyannur chelli (swamp). The swamp, located in Arikkulam panchayat in Koyilandy taluk, has been the traditional breadbasket for plantain cultivators, mostly small-time farmers. Investing in the chelli has always guaranteed them returns.

“With a perennial supply of water flowing in from the Chaliyar river and rich soil, the swamp offers ideal conditions for plantain cultivation. This has prompted farmers of Arikkulam to invest, year after year, their life savings here. The untimely rain and wind have rendered us penniless,” Kaitheri Khader, a local farmer, says.

“On an average, hired manual help costs Rs.600 and manure, Rs.1,000 a month. The market rates of plantains have dipped from Rs.55 a kilo to Rs.30. We were already suffering loss when the winds struck last week,” Poovalakandi Sreeshan says.

Mr. Sreeshan had 60 plantain trees, but after the winds, but very few have been left standing. But he is better off than his 65-year-old neighbour, Damodaran, a heart patient, who lost his entire crop.

Total crop loss

Farmers suffered losses of over Rs.1.15 crore across 13 panchayats in the district due to the rain, District Collector C.A. Latha says.

The district authorities say compensation packages will be soon distributed to farmers in the affected areas of Kavilumpara, Kattipara, Narikuni, Koorachundu, Ulliyeri, Maniyur, Balussery, Kottur, Unnikulam, Kodiyathur, Koyilandy, Madavoor, and Peruvayal.

But farmers say compensation is not paid on time. “They are still doling out the compensation package of 2012,” Mr. Khader said.

Krishi Bhavan officials of Arikulam panchayat confirmed this and said that the panchayat had suffered crop losses to the tune of Rs.18 lakh in 2013 alone. Over 13,000 plantain trees were destroyed in the floods and drought of 2013.

Meagre damages

Again, the compensation distributed to farmers who have suffered agricultural loss due to natural forces is limited. The farmer is paid Rs.75 to Rs.100 for every plantain tree lost, Rs.4,000 for four acres of paddy loss, Rs.150 per arecanut tree and Rs.700 for a coconut tree.

“I am not going for plantains next year,” Mr. Khader said.

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