Punjab has agreed to supply paddy straw to Kerala for use as fodder for livestock as the dairy sector in the southern State faces an acute shortage of green fodder and hay.
The two States have agreed to transport paddy straw to Kerala using the Centre’s Kisan Rail scheme, Kerala Minister for Animal Husbandry J. Chinchurani said on Friday after meeting Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and Punjab Animal Husbandry Minister Laljit Singh Bhullar.
The initiative is seen as a win-win situation for both States. While Kerala gets much-needed fodder, it will help Punjab deal with excess paddy straw which contributes to stubble burning and air pollution.
Ms. Chinchurani is leading a 21-member delegation to Punjab ahead of enacting the Kerala Livestock and Poultry Feed and Mineral Mixture (Regulation of Manufacture and Sale) Bill. Punjab had successfully enacted a similar law, and Kerala is hoping to learn from its experience, according to the Animal Husbandry department.
The dairy sector in Kerala – second only to Punjab in milk production – is a means of livelihood to lakhs of farmers. However, acute shortage of quality cattle feed and the relatively high prices are a major hurdle for farmers.
Though the ideal ratio of roughage and concentrated feed is 60:40, most dairy farmers, especially those in urban areas, tend to bank on compounded feed, mainly because of decline in the supply of fodder. This has affected the fat content of milk produced in the State.
The Economic Review 2021, published by the State Planning Board in March, had stressed the need to ramp up green fodder production, taking note of the fact that Kerala has less than 2,500 hectares under fodder cultivation.
Domestic production meets only 46% of the demand. Area under fodder farms growing the Hybrid Napier variety dipped from 2,665 hectares in 2015-16 to 2,363 hectares in 2020-21. ‘‘It is estimated that fodder cultivation would be required in at least 13,000 hectares if Kerala is to meet the roughage production target,’‘ the Economic Review noted.
The Kerala Livestock and Poultry Feed and Mineral Mixture (Regulation of Manufacture and Sale) Bill is presently before a Select Committee. The proposed law is meant ‘‘to ensure safe and quality feed and regulate manufacture, storage, distribution and sale of feed stuff, livestock and poultry feed and mineral mixture” in the State.