Madurai farmers wait endlessly for more DPCs

Agriculture Department urged to take over paddy procurement from Civil Supplies Corporation

Published - March 16, 2020 08:15 am IST - MADURAI

Though rapid urbanisation has led to shrinkage of area under cultivation in Madurai district over the years, use of machines and better irrigation and cultivation techniques have resulted in increase in yield per acre.

When system rice intensification (SRI) technique was introduced about 15 years ago, it received a lukewarm response from Madurai farmers who were hesitant to switch over from their conventional methods of growing paddy. However, labour shortage and dwindling water sources forced them to adopt it. Now, a vast majority of farmers are accustomed to it.

Farmers have also become dependant on machines for tilling and harvesting instead of relying on the scarce and expensive manpower. Now the new generation farmers, wielding smart phones, have started using UzhavanApp launched by the Agriculture Department. Now they have information on weather, water management, right kind of fertilizers etc., at their fingertips.

One such tech-savvy farmer, S.R. Ramiah, 42, from Poosaripatti near Chittampatti on the Madurai-Melur highway says that during last season, when rain was forecast on the App, he advanced his paddy harvesting schedule by two days and saved the entire crop. But others in his village did not heed to his advice and lost their crop, he says.

But the farmers say there must be more direct purchase centres (DPC) for paddy in Madurai district. “What is the use of technology if we do not get a better price for our produce. The government and officials are more favourable to merchants than farmers, as our persistent demand for opening more DPCs in all the 13 blocks of Madurai district is not met,” Mr. Ramiah says.

G. Palanisami, a farmer from Palamedu in Alanganallur block, says, “Ahead of every harvest season, we put this demand with the Collector at the grievance redressal meetings. In the absence of DPCs, we are forced to sell our paddy to merchants who wait for distress sale.” Though this happens every season, officials find some excuse or other and never open more DPCs and come to our rescue,” he says

A section of farmers say Agriculture Department does a good job of disseminating every information, however small, through awareness camps and workshops. So the government should hand over paddy procurement to this department instead of the Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation.

K.Vijayan of Thirumalnatham near Sholavandan in Vadipatti block says, “Only the agriculture officials know the paddy acreage in their respective areas and they are the right persons to suggest on the exact number of DPCs to be opened and not the TNCSC officials.”

However, former Additional Director of Agriculture S. Kanagaraj says opening more DPCs will mean more expenditure on infrastructure and manpower to the government.

If paddy procurement is to be handed over to the Agriculture department as per the wish of farmers, the TNCSC can just take care of storage in their open yards at Kappalur and Austinpatti and other locations, including the godowns of Agriculture Marketing Committee in the 13 blocks.

In collusion

Farmers say ruling party functionaries are against opening more DPCs as they are in collusion with paddy merchants and rice mill owners. Anthony Pitchai of Kannanendal says DPCs did not start functioning in many villages even after harvest was over and farmers had to keep paddy in the open. Only after forceful representation from farmers’ associations and intervention of the Collector, officials relented and opened the DPCs after three days.

According to a TNCSC official, 33,000 tonnes of paddy were procured this season and ₹25.06 crore will be credited to the farmers’ bank accounts. Two open yards are coming up at Tiruvadavur and Idayapatti with a capacity to store 10,000 tonnes.

However, if the yield from the more than a lakh hectares of both single and double crops are taken into account, it will reveal that only 30% of it has been procured by the government and the rest was dealt by paddy merchants.

Rice mill owners in Keerathurai have done a good business this season thanks to a good monsoon. And the farmers still nurse a hope that more DPCs will be opened, at least from the next season.

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