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Kerala: Thrissur farmers face crisis as low yields push them into financial distress

Farmers in Thrissur, Kerala, are facing a crisis after experiencing unexpectedly low yields in their paddy harvest. Despite their efforts and investments in cultivation, many farmers were shocked by the meager amount of paddy they were able to harvest. 

Kerala: Thrissur farmers face crisis as low yields push them into financial distress anr
First Published Apr 24, 2024, 1:58 PM IST

Thrissur: The farmers of Chettupuzha were left devastated after harvesting their paddy, as the yield was unexpectedly low. This shocking outcome has pushed rice farmers to the brink of despair, with some contemplating suicide as they had hoped the harvest would alleviate their financial struggles.

Farmers who cultivated crops in Chettupuzha, spanning across Thrissur Corporation and Arimbur Panchayat limits, suffered heavy losses due to untimely rains and bacterial infection in the paddy plants. Their hopes were shattered as the yield plummeted drastically compared to previous years, with some reporting only a fraction of their usual harvest. For instance, a farmer who cultivated on one and a half acres of land managed to harvest only seven sacks of paddy, a stark contrast to the usual yield of up to 65 sacks in previous years.

Last year, Supplyco received 55 sacks of paddy, whereas this year, it only acquired 7 sacks. Many farmers obtained 55 kg in one bag and a total of 385 kg in seven bags. Harvesting one acre costs Rs 2500, and there are additional expenses for transportation. Unfortunately, the current yield is insufficient to even offset the expenses incurred in harvesting.

Many farmers have invested tens of thousands of rupees in weed and waste plant removal. Following this, the land must be plowed and leveled with a tractor twice. Additionally, laborers are hired to remove the bitterness from the soil, sow and cultivate the paddy, which costs about Rs 5000 per acre. Fertilizers are also necessary at various growth stages, incurring additional expenses. Furthermore, weeding is conducted as the rice grains mature to eliminate emerging weeds.

Transporting water for irrigation also adds to the financial burden, as rice cultivation demands a substantial water supply during its growth stages. Faced with such financial challenges, farmers often resort to taking advance loans to fund their farming operations. Typically, they repay these loans with interest once they sell their harvested paddy. However, this year, many farmers are struggling to even cover the interest on the borrowed amount due to the poor yield.

The heavy rains in September submerged the crops, causing significant damage to agriculture. Due to the lack of proper drainage systems, there was no mechanism in place to pump out the excess water, exacerbating the crisis. The inability to quickly drain the water further compounded the agricultural challenges. Having a pump set would have facilitated the timely removal of water, helping to mitigate the damage to the crops.

The district administration had approved the installation of a 50 HP motor pump set as part of the Re-Build Kerala project. Despite investing significant funds and constructing the building on the field, the Kerala Land Development Corporation authorities have not installed the motor pump set for the past three years. With the crops in the field destroyed by bacteria, farmers in Chettupuzha are now uncertain about their next steps.

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