Rain derails harvesting of ‘Puncha' crop in Kuttanad

The start of the ‘Puncha' season in Kuttanad's paddy fields was a troublesome one, with rain delaying sowing operations by several weeks. Now, after their grit saw them through the initial bottlenecks, a bumper crop is facing the danger of being damaged by rain that has struck again.

Shortage of labour and absence of adequate number of combine harvesters, apart from a delay in procurement in some places, are keeping farmers on their toes.

In Mathur padasekharam, a 600-acre polder south of Pallathuruthy, farmer A.S. Mathew is worried over the 650 quintals of harvested paddy that has already been packed into gunny bags. Mills assigned by the government to procure paddy from this region lifted about 800 quintals, but the rest remains. With rain-shelters promised by the government still remaining on paper, Mr. Mathew said the harvested paddy had begun to sprout.

“The harvest itself was a wearisome process, with the slush in the field making it difficult for the combine harvesters to move. What would have been over in five hours took 10 hours, and with the harvesters charging per hour, the expense has doubled. Moreover, what could not be harvested by the machines, had to be harvested by manual labour, which made the expense go up again,” he said.

Further east, near Mithrakari, farmer Veliyanadu Mathachen is grappling with a different problem. His crop, which should have been harvested when it was 120 days old, is already 150 days old. “There are no machines available. Kuttanad requires at least 150 combine harvesters if the process has to be smooth. But there are only 90. Already, at some places, police have had to intervene to settle arguments between polders over the harvesters,” he said.

District Collector P. Venugopal, who visited affected areas on Wednesday, told The Hindu that shortage of machines was being tackled. It was severe in areas like Veeyapuram. However, delays in procurement had not been brought to his notice and would be looked into.

“As on Wednesday, harvest in 17,165 hectares is over and the process is on in 660 hectares with 93 machines and 560 labourers. Harvest in the remaining 8,000 hectares should be over by April 30, for which we are making arrangements. Around 20-25 combine harvester machines will reach here in two days. We have so far procured 55,779.5MT, paying Rs.15.66 crore,” he said.