Just when the rain gods seemed to have taken pity on them, by not tormenting the paddy farmers of Kuttanad like they did during the ‘puncha' season earlier this year, a new dilemma has cropped up for those who have gone in for the second round of cultivation here.
The Central government's move to free fertilizer pricing from its administrative control coupled with a severe shortage of fertilizers, both coming at a crucial phase of the season, has delivered a blow below the belt to paddy farmers.
The price decontrolling move, farmers say, resulted in a harsh 50 to 60 per cent hike in prices of key fertilizers while for some, the rise was by over 100 per cent. The cascading effect, according to Bhanudas, president of the Ponga-Poopally paddy polder council here, has been that the overall expenses shot up sharply. Combined with the price hike, a severe shortage in availability of key fertilizers like Factamfos and Muriate of Potash (MOP), has delivered a double blow.
“Factamfos, which came at Rs.390 a bag last year, costs about Rs.570 now The cost of administering of fertilizer per acre, which was around Rs.500 last time, is over Rs.1,200 this time. That should explain our misery,” Mr. Bhanudas says.
Paddy farmers in Kuttanad, who have begun the second round of cultivation in about 10,000 hectares, out of which sowing has been completed in 8,246 hectares, were looking forward to a good yield this time around, with rain not tormenting them as it had during the ‘puncha' season, when the acreage was about 26,000 hectares.
But with the shortage of the fertilizers, Mr. Bhanudas says the first round of fertilizer application, which should have been done when the crop was 20 days old, is yet to be done even after 35 days, which is when the second round of fertilizers has to be administered.
“This sort of delay is going to affect the yield, and along with the price hike, we are sure to suffer serious losses,” he says, noting that the 280 farmers who had sowed on the 325-acre Ponga-Poopally paddy polder are all small-scale farmers, each of them with around five acres or less, dependent on the income from paddy for their livelihood for the rest of the year.
According to agriculture officials, efforts are on to address the shortage of Factamfos, but the shortage of MOP is likely to worsen in the coming days.