Kerala

COVID-19 casts a shadow over North Kuttanad paddy farmers

Cultivation and procurement of paddy have come to a halt

The panic wave triggered by the COVID-19 outbreak in the State has cast a shadow over not just the trading community but the farmers as well.

With the State entering a lockdown mode this week, the cultivation and procurement of paddy in the North Kuttanad region have come to a halt.

Clueless

Faced with the prospects of a delayed procurement coupled with the threat of unseasonal showers, the farmers appear clueless on whether they will be able to sell their hard-earned produce in time.

A majority of the 150-odd harvesting machines in operation across the region were brought from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and with the lockdown in place, its operators have started returning to their native places.

At the same time, the inability of the farmers in arranging oil and related components due to the partial lockdown over the past one week has affected the operation of the remaining machines as well.

Lockdown

According to the farmers, the lockdown has come at the most inopportune time as cultivators in North Kuttanad are already under duress over a hard bargaining by the rice mills.

While the price fixed per kilo is ₹26.95, the millers are ready to purchase the paddy only with a concession of up to 4-11 kg per qunintal.

“This high volume of concession, sought under the guise of low quality of produce, is bleeding the farmers dry as they also require financing its cost of transportation. The government, at the same time, is not willing to compensate the losses though the farmers were charged an amount towards insuring the seeds at the start of the season,” pointed out Aby Ipe, district general secretary of the Farmers Congress.

The situation is particularly worse in the Kumarakom, Kaduthuruthy and Vaikom region where paddy in several thousand hectares was waiting to be harvested, he added.

As per estimates with the paddy marketing office of the Supplyco, the authorities have procured over 21,000 tonnes of paddy from about 7,000 hectares in Kottayam so far.

The agency has also approved a list of 24,000 farmers for procurement, being carried out through a network of 33 rice millers.

During the season, the farmers in Kottayam had cultivated the crop in about 16,000 hectares, spread across 450 clusters of paddy fields.

“The lockdown has severely affected the movement of men and machines and we are awaiting the instructions from the government to expedite the procurement process. Going by the current rates, we may be able to complete the proceedings only by the May-June period,” said Jijimol P. Kurian, paddy marketing officer, Supplyco Kottayam.

The official attributed the quality issues of the produce during the season to lack of rains during the sowing period.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 3:49:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/covid-19-casts-a-shadow-over-north-kuttanad-paddy-farmers/article31154919.ece

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