Drawn by Central and State government subsidies, farmers are switching from paddy to fruit and vegetable cultivation to offset losses.

Monsoon failure in the district since 2009 has taught the farmers to move from water-intensive paddy cultivation to crops that require less water and also give better income. This has resulted in a significant increase in area brought under cultivation of these new crops. In Tirunelveli district, mango (6,523 hectares), banana (9,700 ha), amla (2,600 ha), acid-lime (2,186 ha) and other fruits (1,136 ha) are being grown to give an annual yield of 5.69 lakh tonnes. Similarly, vegetables such as brinjal, tomato, ladies finger and onion are being grown on 4,544 hectares targeting an annual production of 73,385 tonnes.

Spices and condiments such as chilly, coriander, cardamom, clove, tamarind etc. are being cultivated on an area of 4,218 hectare with an annual production of 19,745 tonnes. Plantation crops such as cashew, coffee, tea, cocoa etc. are cultivated on an area of 6,102 ha and floriculture is being taken up on 1,630 ha to produce 13,382 tonnes of jasmine, rose and margold.

Central and the State Government schemes are being implemented in the district to support the farmers. The National Horticulture Mission (NHM) is being implemented with the view to further increase the area of cultivation and the yield as well. During the current fiscal, subsidy to the tune of Rs. 92.99 lakh has been disbursed to 1,320 farmers under NHM.

To minimize the dependence on water for irrigation, micro irrigation and other techniques have been introduced.

“Since Central and State Governments give attractive subsidy of 100 per cent to small and marginal farmers and 75 per cent to other farmers, micro irrigation is becoming popular among the farming community. So far, we’ve disbursed subsidy to the tune of Rs. 1.54 crore as micro irrigation subsidy to 272 farmers, who have covered 516 hectares under this new technique,” said Collector C. Samayamoorthy, who visited farms covered by micro irrigation and fertigation in the villages of Maaraanthai, Karumpuliyoothu, Pudur, Sivalaarkulam and Odakkarai Thulukkarpatti on Wednesday. He said hybrid seeds were being distributed to the farmers at 50 per cent subsidised cost and 2,750 farmers had benefited from this scheme to the tune of Rs. 73 lakh.