The continuing standoff between Kerala and Tamil Nadu over the Mullaperiyar dam has triggered anxiety among the paddy farmers of Kuttanad, who are gearing up for the harvest of the ‘puncha’ crop from early February.
The reason for the anxiety, which is building as each day passes with no sign of any end to the face-off between the two States, is that over 80 per cent of the combine harvester machines that are required for the harvest in Kuttanad come from Tamil Nadu. According to the farmers, machine agents here have already thrown up their hands saying that if Mullaperiyar continued to be an issue in February, the possibility of the machines being brought to the State were meagre.
Farmers here would have to depend fully on Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka in case the State Government did not come up with alternatives and that, they believe, is going to escalate the harvest costs several times, apart from the fact that the machines from these two States might not be able to meet the requirements here in the desired way.
The requirement in the Alappuzha belt of Kuttanad alone, for the 25,000-odd hectares that saw the ‘puncha’ round of cultivation this time, is at least 200 machines for a smooth harvest, though noted agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan has recommended 300 of the machines in the Kuttanad Package. As of now, the district has only around 30 machines.
According to officials, the process of buying around 100 machines as decided by the Kuttanad Prosperity Council recently, had reached only the tender stage. Though the Kerala Agro Industries Corporation had bought 50 machines last year, these were given to Palakkad after they turned out to be unsuitable for the marshy geographical conditions in Kuttanad.
With paddy polders in Pulinkunnu, Edathua and Ramankary, apart from a few ones in the Kainakary region, gearing up for a harvest in February, and others facing the risk of summer rains in March-April if the harvest gets delayed, the farmers here are hoping for an early end to the Mullaperiyar imbroglio.