“Trees that are about to be harvested suffered the most”

Lakhs of banana trees raised on more than 400 acres in Pudukkottai and Tiruchi districts were ravaged by high-velocity winds on Saturday evening.

G. Ajeethan, general secretary of the Banana Growers’ Federation of Tamil Nadu, estimated that the total number of trees uprooted\damaged could be as high as two lakhs and the loss per tree would be Rs. 75.

P. Viswanathan, State president of the Tamilaga Eri Matrum Aatrupasana Vivasayigal Sangham, however, said that at least 20 lakh trees might have been damaged in Lalgudi, Srirangam and Tiruverumbur taluks in Tiruchi district. These regions suffered because of high-velocity winds on Friday evening and also last week. Several varieties of banana, including ‘poovan’, ‘rasthali’, ‘pachaladam’, ‘mondham’, ‘elarisi’ and ‘karpooravalli’ were badly hit. He urged the government to grant a compensation of at least Rs. 1 lakh per acre.

C.G. Thalapathi, Pudukkotai district chairman of the Farmers' Forum India, feared that banana on at least 100 acres in the district should have been damaged. “The most disheartening feature is that the trees that are about to be harvested suffered the most because of the weight of the bunches. Though the gale struck Manaviduthi, Mathur, Kulaivaipatty, Mookipatty, Kammankadu and Manthangudi villages only for about 20 minutes, it played havoc.”

He was certain that most of the trees on the verge of harvest had been seriously damaged and only those partially grown had survived the onslaught. Even maize, raised on about 200 acres in Perungalur, Andakulam and Vaithur, apart from the villages where banana had been raised, had also suffered badly, he added.

S. Ponnusamy, Pudukkottai district secretary of the Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam, who toured the affected areas on Sunday along with his district president M. Sebastian, said that each farmer had spent at least Rs. 130 per tree and thus the total expenditure they should have incurred per acre should be around Rs. 1.25 lakh. Many of them had already negotiated a price for the fully grown bunches and “I am sure that each farmer would have got a profit of Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 60,000 per acre had they been sold.”

A farmer swooned on seeing the pathetic plight of his orchard and had to be hospitalised, he added. He demanded a compensation of Rs. 3 lakh per acre for these farmers.

However, Mr. Ajeethan observed that such high-velocity winds, called “whirlwind,” was not uncommon during April-May-June and “we get reports of such occurrences from various parts of the State every year.”

Weather Department sources in Chennai also said such winds developed because of “convective instability” and it was a common phenomenon during summer.

Mr. Ajeethan admitted that almost all those farmers affected in the latest incident had also not insured their crop. “Considering the fragile nature of the banana crop, a comprehensive unit-based crop insurance scheme is the need of the hour,” he asserted.

Vijayakumar, Deputy Director of Horticulture, Pudukkottai, told The Hindu that banana had been raised on about 185 hectares (460 acres) in Manaviduthi, Mookipatti and Sempatti. The crop on 16 hectares was damaged. While extensive damage was assessed in six hectares, the damage was partial in the rest.

The 13-month ‘poovan’ variety had been raised there and it was due for harvest in a couple of months, he said. While Horticulture officials visited the villages and assessed the damage, Revenue officials would conduct a survey shortly, he added.

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