Officials in a quandary over the promotion of fine variety rice

Despite the push to switch over, farmers say its climate resilient variants are not available in adequate quantities

August 28, 2022 12:11 am | Updated 12:11 am IST - CHENNAI

The civil supplies authorities are in a fix. On one hand, they are under pressure not to accept, for the public distribution system (PDS), rice of the common variety in view of the declining number of takers. On the other, farmers, when advised by the authorities to raise more fine variety paddy, tell them that climate resilient variants of the fine variety are not available in adequate quantities.

Samba cultivation

It is against this backdrop that the authorities are approaching the arrival of the long-term Samba cultivation season, which will pick up momentum in the coming weeks. Also, the officials are making preparations to launch, on September 1, the procurement of paddy raised during the Kuruvai season.

Officials say the acceptance level for the common variety or, in popular parlance “mota variety” has been going down. A long-time observer of the food and civil supplies sector in the State points out, “Once, Kerala was the market for this type of rice. But, in recent years, it has also started preferring fine variety over common variety.” Locally, the people use the common-variety rice more often to make ‘idli’ or, in the worst scenario, poultry feed.

V. Sathyanarayanan, a veteran farmer of Tiruvarur district, who attended a recent meeting held by the government to discuss issues concerning the procurement, explains that the farmers have to depend on the common variety, in view of non-availability of satisfactory alternative variants under the category of fine variety. Strength of stem and vulnerability to pest attacks are some of the problems that farmers have encountered while opting for fine variety.

However, sections of agricultural scientists do not completely agree with the contention regarding the non-availability of alternatives. N. Kumar, former Vice-Chancellor of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), says ADT 51 and ADT 53 are among those climate resilient varieties that have been developed in the last three-four years, and there have been reports that the crop had withstood even floods.

ADT 51’s problems

But, Mr. Sathyanarayanan says the feedback from the farmers is that ADT 51 suffers from the problem of lodging. “We have been told to go for ADT 54. Even some farmers have got a favourable experience. But, one has to see how beneficial it is to the larger community,” he said.

Another former V-C of the TNAU, C. Ramasamy, concedes the lack of availability of proper alternatives to the common variety. “But, this problem is there in other rice-growing States. We, as a nation, are yet to address this problem properly.”

A former official of the Civil Supplies Corporation says the migration among farmers will be a gradual process. When agricultural specialists develop alternative variants, the government has to ensure that such variants are marketed well and in a sustained manner.

With all these issues, the farmers of the State too have been increasingly using the fine variety. Going by the data of paddy procurement over the last 20 years, the fine variety accounts for nearly two-thirds of the procured paddy. The authorities want to reduce the proportion even further and, eventually, phase it out completely.

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