Kannur may not figure among the major paddy cultivating districts in Kerala, but there is a heightened optimism that rice yield here this year will exceed that of the last year as there is an increase in the area under paddy cultivation and a favourable condition free from pest attacks.

The total area under paddy cultivation this year is 5800 hectare including 1000 ha converted into paddy fields under the baseland conversion plan and 200 ha in the Kattampally basin being reverted to

traditional rice cultivation after a gap of more than four decades.

Last year, the total area under paddy cultivation in the district was 4600 ha. This year's baseland conversion target in the district is 1500 ha.

"We are expecting a bumper yield this year as all conditions are favourable and the yield is expected to be average three tonne per ha as against 2.5 tonne per ha last year", says Principal Agriculture Officer Ashok Kumar Thekkan. In the Kattampally 'kaipad' areas (fields in the basin influenced by tidal action) that spread across nine panchayats in the district, the yield is expected to be two tonne per ha, he adds. The rice fields in the district are getting ready for harvest in two to four weeks, he says.

The scheme aided by the Agriculture Department and the district panchayat to revive 'kaipad' areas for rice cultivation is a major boost for paddy cultivators in the area. The entire Kattampally kaipad areas known for their traditional single crop cultivation turned fallow in the wake of the commissioning of the Kattampally irrigation project over 40 years ago for regulating entry of saline water in the upstream areas. This year the 200 ha of kaipadu land that was left fallow have been revived for salinity-resistant paddy cultivation as

part of the experimental scheme to revive the kaipad paddy cultivation in the Kattampally area.

"Our plan is to bring additional 1200 ha under paddy cultivation in the Kattampally area, if the ongoing experimental project yields successful results", Mr. Thekkan told The Hindu adding that the experimental cultivation in 200 has not confronted any problems so far. Agricultural experts and farmers anticipated some problems relating to soil which had been hardened as a result of the regulation of salilne water after the commissioning of the irrigation project.

An amount Rs. 2 crore has been set apart under various schemes including the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana for the Kattampally revival project for two years beginning this year. The works envisaged include construction of a regulator at Valakkai at an estimated cost of Rs. 25 lakh. An extent of 40 ha of kaipad land can be revived with the construction of the regulator, according to agricultural officials here.

A major initiative under the Kattampally revival scheme is the mobilisation of work force, shortage of which is often cited as a main obstacle to paddy cultivation. A labour force comprising 600 people, mostly women, has already been formed. They will be deployed, as per requirement, in the paddy fields in nine panchayats. Each member of the labour force is given a wage of Rs. 200 per day, Rs. 40 more than the normal wage. The district panchayat has also given Rs. 50 lakh for the revival of Kattampally kaipad cultivation. This will be utilised for purchasing equipment including transplanter, combined harvester, tractor and tiller, among others.

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