A spate of bund breaches across the Alappuzha belt of the Kuttanad region has thrown the ‘puncha’ round of cultivation into a deeper crisis with several farmers now thinking of abandoning the ‘puncha’ round after suffering heavy losses. Official estimates have pegged the cumulated agricultural loss so far at Rs.10.13 crore.
Bund breaches, according to District Collector P. Venugopal, have been reported from 68 padasekharams till Tuesday, with the loss estimated to be Rs.130.5 lakh. Paddy from the second round of cultivation which was ripe for harvesting has been damaged in over 3,000 hectares, causing a loss of about Rs. 763 lakh. The damage in 1,753 hectares, where the seed for the ‘puncha’ crop was sown, is Rs. 87.66 lakh.
With the district administration making efforts to discourage farmers from abandoning the crucial ‘puncha’ round, plans are afoot to ensure supply of about 140 tonnes of additional seed for ‘restarting’ the process. At the same time, the loss borne by farmers who had undertaken bund strengthening works prior to sowing, is unaccounted, which could take the total financial wreckage by the rains much above the calculated figures.
The Alappuzha belt of Kuttanad was expecting the ‘puncha’ acreage to go over 26,000 hectares this time around. Though the preparations and sowing were thrown off-track due to the rains in October, the determined farmers had not given up.
They spent Rs. 6,000 per acre for preparations and about Rs. 10,000 per acre for sowing, after taking agricultural loans of about Rs. 15,000 per acre. But a majority of them have already suffered a loss of about Rs.10, 000 per acre. It is this group that is planning to abandon the crop for this season, according to Thomas Peelianickal, executive director, Kuttanad Vikasana Samithi.
“It will take at least two weeks for them to bring matters back on track, forget the additional expenses. This means that the harvest will be possible only around April-May next year, which is when we have summer rains here, apart from the non-availability of combine harvester machines,” he said, calling for an urgent rehabilitation package to prevent the State from facing a severe rice shortage next year.