There is a marked shift in the outlook of farmers and the crop pattern they have begun adopting in Cuddalroe district.
The decision to shift from certain traditional crops to cash crops seems to have been influenced by three factors: the havoc wrought by cyclone ‘Thane,’ the drought condition that stretched over one-and-half years and profitability.
Deputy Director of Agriculture (State schemes) Ka. Ilango told The Hindu that the shift has become so pronounced in Mangalur and Nallur areas of Cuddalore district.
During the financial year 2011-2012, the area under maize crop stood at 14,900 hectares. But, as of now, it extended to 21,000 ha and there were indications that it might widen further. The region is known for traditionally cultivating millets such as raagi, kambu and varagu.
While the areas under raagi and kambu remained almost static, that of varagu had drastically come down from 3,800 ha to 2,500 ha . Undeterred by losses inflicted on them by the cyclone and the prolonged drought condition, farmers stuck to cultivation inherited from their forefathers.
Asked why they were attracted to maize, Mr. Ilango said that the crop had a ready market as orders had started flowing from cattle and poulty feed traders.
Karmangudi Venkatesan, a progressive farmer, told this correspondent that farmers were gravitated to maize as it could be raised in both rain-fed and irrigated conditions.
“This short-time crop matures in three months and fetches steady returns , both in retail and bulk trade.”
For raising maize on an acre, a farmer would have to spend on an average of Rs. 5,000 an acre and if the crop yield was good, it would fetch him Rs. 40,000 to Rs. 45,000 an acre.
Such profits could not be earned by raising any other crop, Mr. Venkatesan said. Moreover, maize was a sturdy crop whose yield size could not be grossly affected by vagaries of nature, he added.
According to Mr. Ilango, farmers in the region too had found cultivation of hybrid Bt. cotton an attractive proposition. Bt cotton had become a favoured crop because of its pest-resistance and high-yielding qualities.
Thus, area under Bt cotton cultivation rose to 8,500 ha from 6,000 ha in 2011-2012. However, there was a slight drop in sugarcane area that dwindled from 13,000 ha to 12,000 ha (planted crop), and from 19,000 ha to 16,000 ha.
However, Mr. Ilango further said that in the tail-end delta region, there was a steady increase in the area under paddy cultivation from 40,000 ha in 2011-212 to 42,000 ha in 2012-13 and to 48,400 ha now.
On whether farmers were now taking to contract farming, Mr. Ilango said,” Farm practices in Cuddalore district would not truly conform to the term, but assured market and steady orders for the crop yield influence their decision on crop choice.”