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Mechanical harvesters put labour problem of Anbil farmers to rest

M.Balaganessin
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Government urged to ensure assured power supply and availability of fertilizers

Man and machine:Mechanical harvester has come in handy for the paddy growers in Lalgudi. Picture shows a group of labourers harvesting paddy near Anbil on Tuesday.Photo:M.Srinath
Man and machine:Mechanical harvester has come in handy for the paddy growers in Lalgudi. Picture shows a group of labourers harvesting paddy near Anbil on Tuesday.Photo:M.Srinath

Mechanical harvesters have come in handy for the farmers, in and around Anbil, to tide over labour scarcity in harvesting paddy fields. With the ‘samba' paddy fields ready for harvest, farmers have meticulously planned their harvesting process.

P.Annamalai, a retired teacher of Anbil, who has been raising ‘samba' crop for the past four decades, says that mechanisation has helped him immensely in harvesting the fields. He has resorted to the ‘system of rice intensification' (SRI) technique and has brought five out of total eight acres of his fields under the method.

“The SRI technique has resulted in higher yield,” he says. He points out that the harvest from the SRI technique was about 45 bags each of 61 kg. He had followed the conventional cultivation practice in three acres which has registered a yield of about 35 bags.

He says that even the use of mechanical harvester would not be an easy job. The harvester is parked at an open place which was once used as a thrashing floor.

“As my fields are located far away from my home, I have to engage the services of men and women to bring the bundles of harvested produce here,” he says.

In all, he has employed 38 agricultural workers including 17 men and 21 women, who toil for 12 hours for three days from 5 a.m. for harvesting five acres of the SRI crop. He has timed the harvest in such a way that agricultural workers are available.

He says that there has been a scramble for the mechanical harvester, in the wake of the scarcity of agricultural workers.

Expenditure-wise, both mechanical and conventional modes of harvest do not make much difference.

“I incurred an expenditure of Rs.15, 000 for harvesting five acres using the machinery. The average per acre expenditure for manual harvest is about Rs.3, 000,” says Mr.Annadurai.

Mechanical harvesters, however, have made expeditious harvesting possible. Farmers who raise black gram as an intercrop desist from the use of mechanical harvesters.

“The black gram is damaged by the machinery. Farmers who do not resort to any intercrop alone could go in for mechanical harvest,” he says.

Further, the hay is partly damaged by the machinery.

Farmers say that the assured market for the ‘Andhra Ponni' was one of the reasons for their switching over to mechanical harvest of paddy. They urged the State government to ensure assured power supply for irrigating the fields and also prompt availability of fertilizer.

“The yield would have been higher had uninterrupted power supply been guaranteed,” say the farmers.

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