A stand-off between farmers and combine harvester machine agents has put in jeopardy the future of ripe paddy crop in about 1,000 hectares in the Kainakary panchayat of Kuttanad here.

The farmers had arranged for combine harvester machines to harvest the ‘virippu’ (second round of cultivation) crop last week. The machines were rented via agents from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, with the agents signing agreements for rents varying from Rs.1,350 to Rs.1,400 per hour. However, a day before the machines arrived, the rains began here and the agents are now saying that the paddy fields are soggy, making it difficult for the machines to move swiftly.

They have also demanded a higher rent, ranging from Rs.1,500 to Rs.2,000. With the farmers refusing to give in to the demand, saying that the agents were trying to exploit the situation that nature had pushed them into, harvest is yet to begin in around 1,000 hectares in the panchayat. The machines have been parked alongside the paddy fields, with the agents and drivers returning to their homes in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, leaving behind a few of their assistants as guards.

With the rains continuing to lash the region, the paddy crop, which should have been harvested by now, has now fallen onto the ground in many areas, and in some fields, the fallen crop has began sprouting as well.

The padasekharams (polders) which have been affected by the stand-off include the 500-acre Aarupanku padasekharam, those at Vavakadu North, Kanakasseri, Valiyakari, Irumbanam, Puthenthuram, Idapally Sunathuram and Kuppapuram, to name a few.

According to K.S. Sudhakaran and K.S. Rejimon, president and secretary respectively of the Aarupanku Padasekharam Committee, there are 214 farmers waiting for a solution to the crisis in the Aarupanku padasekharam alone. They required 12 machines, but nine was all that came. And those are sitting idle now.

“There has to be some effort from the district authorities, including the district panchayat and the Agriculture department to help us, failing which the entire crop will be lost,” they said. Already, the expected yield has gone down with the paddy falling. “We were expecting around three to four quintals per acre, but that must have gone down to around 1.5 quintals in the present conditions,” they added.

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