Madurai

A sweet Pongal in the offing for sugarcane farmers

This year due to abundant water, the produce have grown taller and the girth was also better. A sugarcane field at Chettinaickenpatti near Dindigul.

This year due to abundant water, the produce have grown taller and the girth was also better. A sugarcane field at Chettinaickenpatti near Dindigul.   | Photo Credit: G_KARTHIKEYAN

Though buoyed by a plentiful yield due to good monsoon, farmers are wary of crash in price

This Pongal may finally not be bitter if not sweet, for sugarcane farmers, as the yield is comparatively much better this time around.

In the sugarcane belts of Theni and Dindigul districts, the farmers are getting ready for the harvest, which would begin sometime next week. The canes have grown taller, some reaching up to 8 feet height and the girth is also better, as there was abundant water this year. The crop is grown in hundreds of acres across Chinnamanur, Bodi, Devadhanapatti, Kamakkapatti and Genguvarpatti in Theni district and areas such as Sanarpatti, Natham, Chettinayakkanpatti and Batlagundu in Dindigul district.

Water-intensive crop

“The rain gods were kind and there was water released from the dams, as well, augmenting a bountiful growth and yield. The canes will also be juicier and sweeter,” says S. R. Ganesan, a farmer from Chettinayakkanpatti. He alternates between paddy and sugarcane and has been cultivating the crop for the past six decades.

Though it’s a water-intensive and a long-standing crop that takes a full year to yield, sugarcane fetches decent profit unless it’s a drought year, he says.

There are two types of sugarcanes knows as ‘Aalakarumbu’ and ‘Senkarumbu’, of which the former is sent to the sugar mills and the latter is grown only for the Pongal festival.

“The traditional Senkarumbu yields about 25 tonnes per acre usually but seeing the density of the growth this time, we may get few more tonnes. We spend about ₹1.5 lakh per acre in raising the crop and may expect a profit of ₹1 lakh. Last year, we sold one bunch of sugarcane for ₹450. One bunch has 10 canes and a cane is sold for ₹45,” he adds.

Risk of price crash

However the risk of a good yield is that it may lead to a crash in price. “If the production is extremely good such as in the current year, the market price may become less. We are yet to get price quotes from traders. The market area for sugarcane grown in Chinnamanur and Theni has also shrunk,” says Kannan, president of Theni District Farmers’ Association.

He points out that Kerala was once a major market for sugarcane grown in the Theni district but in the recent years, the market there has not been buying the product as enthusiastically as before. The sugarcane grown in Dindigul district reaches Karur, Madurai, Erode and local markets in Oddanchatram and Vedasandur. “Only if price crash is avoided and prices stabilise, the yield may translate into a happy Pongal for the farmers,” he says.

Sugarcane farmers also face threat of pests such as the black naped hare which feeds on tender shoots and a shoot-borer pest. “This year, complaints of shoot-borer attacks have been much lesser. One disadvantage of choosing the Senkarumbu over the mill variety is that much of the crop’s weight goes waste in the form of a dense foliage,” says Suruliappan, AD, Agriculture Department, Dindigul.

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 8:06:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/a-sweet-pongal-in-the-offing-for-sugarcane-farmers/article30504907.ece

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