Thanks to the increasing global demand for tobacco, farmers in south coastal Andhra Pradesh cultivated it in over 53,000 hectares this Rabi season. But now, they are in an unenviable position as Cyclone Mandous destroyed the leaf in at least 40% of the cropland.
Almost all farmers in Prakasam and Nellore districts have suffered crop loss to some extent. According to Tobacco Board sources, farms in the Southern Black Soil (SBS) region, especially in Ongole and Tangutur, suffered the most. ‘‘The 30 to 50-day-old plants are under severe stress because of the water-saturated soil and the absence of proper drainage,’‘ the sources said.
In the Southern Light Soil (SLS) region, crops were affected in Kandukur, Kaligiri, D.C. Palli and Kanigiri.
The crop regulator had fixed a higher cultivation quota of 142 million kg for Andhra Pradesh, allocating an 89.35 million kg limit for SLS and SBS regions for the 2022-23 season. However, the current situation indicates that the quota will be challenging unless replantation is taken up quickly in all the farms before the season ends.
It is to be noted that Tobacco production has suffered in Karnataka, where it is a Kharif crop, due to unseasonal rains. Now the situation is almost similar in Andhra Pradesh, the sources explained.
‘’We have no option but to go for replantation in most of the farms, ‘‘ said a group of farmers in Kandukur, busy mobilising nurseries at the cost of up to ₹1,500 per bundle. The entire plantation had been destroyed, especially in low-lying areas. They require one and a half bundles to cover one acre of the plantation, they said. The cost of cultivation had already gone up by 20%. They had to spend another ₹10,000 per acre for replantation, incurring additional expenditure, they added.
The Tobacco Board should take the cyclone damages into consideration and provide an interest-free soft loan of ₹10,000 to complete the replantation in a fortnight or so. It could be pooled from the penalty collected from farmers for the excess crop grown in the past, pleaded SLS Farmers Association Secretary T. Ramanaiah. The State Government, on its part, should also sanction ₹10,000 per acre as compensation to raise crops afresh, he added.
Tobacco Board Executive Director A. Sridhar Babu is slated to visit some of the worst-affected farms with a view to working out a mitigation plan with inputs from officials of the Central Tobacco Research Institute (CTRI)