Rising labour cost plays its part in pushing up the cultivation cost

The worst-ever power crisis has taken a heavy toll on the joint family of Paladugu Koteswara Rao, an upland farmer from Kota Nagavaram in Buttayagudem mandal of West Godavari district.

The 20-member joint family took up tobacco, sugarcane, and cotton cultivation in 100 acres. The cost of cultivation went up manifold and the family invested heavily on oil engines and generators for exploitation of groundwater to save the standing crop. According to Mr. Koteswara Rao, five generators and eight oil engines were fitted to 15 borewells in their fields for watering the crop. The family invested more than Rs 7 lakh on generators alone each with 30 kv capacity. “We are forced to purchase 20 barrels of diesel costing Rs 2.20 lakh to energise generators during the crop period from nursery to curing in tobacco. When power is supplied for only four hours a day, that too in two spells, daily as against the promised seven hours, what can we do,” says Mr. Koteswara Rao. .

The rising labour cost plays is playing its part in pushing up the cultivation cost. The daily wage for each worker has gone up by Rs 20 this year.

Besides, the farmers are forced to bear the transport cost ranging from Rs. 300 to Rs. 400 for an autorickshaw. The workers come in autos to the fields in Buttayagudem from as far off places as Jangareddygudem 15 km away. The workers specialised in curing, procured from Guntur and Krishna districts, are demanding Rs. 1 lakh as advance for each baron six months before the crop comes up for curing. “In the case of tobacco the cultivation cost has gone up mainly because of the power problem and soaring labour cost,” Mr. Koteswara Rao adds.

Farmers, in desperation, are approaching banks for a higher scale of finance for commercial crops such as mirchi, tobacco, cotton, sugarcane and maize. Led by the Andhra Pradesh Rytu Sangham , a group of farmers locked up the Darbhagudem branch of Bank of India in Jeelugumilli mandal for four days demanding increase in loan limit from Rs. 3 lakh to Rs. 5 lakh for tobacco per acre in line with the decision of the District Level Technical Committee (DLTC).