Drought-like situation, low price, crisis in the market following demonetisation, and shortage of labour have cast a shadow over the expectations of paddy farmers in Wayanad.
This is the harvest season in the district but there is nothing much to cheer about for the farm community, says K.P. Krishnan, a tribal farmer at Thottamoola in Noolpuzha grama panchayat.
“I spent Rs.22,000 to cultivate paddy on one acre this Nanja season. But I could not recoup a single rupee as there is nothing to harvest except withered hay, thanks to the drought-like situation in the area in the past three months,” he adds.
The same is the case of the farmers at Sulthan Bathery, Nenmeni, Noolpuzha, Thirunelly, Panamaram, and Padinharethara grama panchayats in the district.
Nanja paddy cultivation usually gives sustenance to small-scale farmers, especially tribespeople in forest settlements. They face a crisis situation, with their sustenance at stake.
During normal monsoon, the efforts of the people on their small holdings will give them enough to eat and fodder for their cattle. But, not this year. The drought has killed all hopes.
Poor monsoon apart, the Centre’s decision to demonetise high-value currency notes has also pushed the farmers into a crisis.
The minimum support price for paddy has been fixed at Rs.2,250 a quintal by the government. But the farmers are forced to sell their produce in the open market at Rs.1,600 a quintal due to the delay in payment by government procurement agencies.
“Nearly 80 per cent of the farmers have holdings below three acres and prefer to sell the produce in open market instead of to Supplyco owing to the delay in payment,” K. Gopi , secretary, Armadu-Murani Padasekhara Samiti, says.
The farmers are in a tight spot now as dealers are delaying payments in the wake of demonetisation, he said.
Preliminary reports of the Agriculture Department show that paddy cultivated on more than 480 hectares in six grama panchayats was destroyed this season owing to the drought-like situation.