The State government is all set to launch the Anna Bhagya scheme on July 10, under which BPL card holders will receive 30 kg of rice a month at Re. 1 a kg. Nearly 1 crore households are expect to benefit from the scheme.

However, paddy growers here are wondering how the government will procure huge quantities of rice for the scheme as there has been a gradual decline in paddy production in the State.

According to Kurubur Shanthakumar, chief convener, Federation of Karnataka Farmers’ Associations, the government may procure rice from other States, but this is unlikely to be sustainable in the long run.

Growers here pointed out that paddy cultivation was no longer profitable owing to steep increase in cost of cultivation and lack of good returns.

“Price of rice in the open market has gone up as production even in other rice-growing States has declined. Farmers there are switching over to other crops which fetch higher returns,” said Mr. Shanthakumar, who is chief convener, Federation of Karnataka Farmers’ Associations, Mysore.

Cost per acre

Mr. Shanthakumar, who cultivates paddy at T. Narsipur taluk, told The Hindu that the cost of cultivating paddy per acre is about Rs. 28,500 and the average yield per acre is around 20 quintals. The support price had been enhanced to Rs. 1,360 per quintal. Considering this, the returns per acre will not be more than Rs. 28,000. If the yield was more by 2 or 3 quintals and the produce fetched a better price (for fine variety), the farmers might make a profit that was between Rs. 3,000 and Rs. 4,000.

“It is not lucrative at all as the labour cost has gone up substantially,” Mr. Shanthakumar explained.

He said that one could get around 65 kg of rice from a quintal of paddy. Including the main byproducts of rice milling, the farmer may get around Rs. 3,335 per quintal. Mr. Shanthakumar, who is also chief convener of Consortium of Indian Farmers’ Association, demanded implementation of the M.S. Swaminathan Commission report on minimum prices. “Fixing scientific price will bring stability to paddy production. Lack of a justifiable support price will discourage growers. In such a situation, how can we ensure food security,” he asked.

Sustaining the rice scheme largely depended on the government’s move to boost paddy cultivation in the State, he said.

Siddesh, a 49-year-old paddy farmer in T. Narsipur taluk, said: “Middlemen were eating away at our profits. I get a yield of about 20 quintals per acre. I have not benefited much by cultivating paddy as the cost of production and the returns I get are almost the same.”

He said farmers had to buy fertilizer, seeds, pesticides and other inputs at retail prices, but their produce was bought at wholesale price.

Another farmer from the same taluk said farmers would be at risk if the government regulated rice transportation to other States as the government here required huge quantities of rice to meet its PDS needs.

Use of chemicals

According to Mr. Shanthakumar, another important reason for the fall in paddy yield is excessive use of chemical fertilizer. “This is harming soil fertility. Nearly 15 to 18 per cent chemical fertilizer is used to boost paddy output. The yield was earlier over 25 quintals per acre but now is less even after scaling up fertilizer use.”

He suggested that universities develop more high-yielding paddy varieties to boost production.

Paddy is cultivated on over 20 lakh hectares in the State. In Mysore district, it is cultivated on over 1.5 lakh hectares.

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