Unusual rains in Kerala: Farmers across state face huge crisis

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While rice farmers have lost much of their crop in heavy showers, some farmers were faced with pest attacks and diseases caused by the rains.

The water flowing from the Muthanga rice fields in Noolpuzha was actually the tears of the rice farmers Mullu Kurumba – this is a message that many people in Wayanad of Kerala recently received on their WhatsApp groups after the unusual rains in the state. The moving message was sent by N Badusha, president of Wayanad Prakruthi Samrakshana Samithi, an environmental protection NGO.

Mullu Kurumba tribal community consists of small rice farmers residing Manmathamoola, Athikuni, Alathur, Kumizhi, Rmapallur, Kolur and some other villages in the panchayat Noolpuzha of Wayanad district. Every family has one half to one acre of land, no more. They generally cultivate rice varieties Wayanadan Thondi, Adukkan and Gandhakasala. This year, 115 farmers Mullu Kurumba cultivated rice on 150 acres in the Muthanga Padasekhara Samiti. In early November, all were happy that the paddy is harvested in a few days, knowing that performance this time was very high.

“They had started to harvest, but the unusual rain destroyed their hard work. Heavy rains broke the bunds around the rice fields. They will not even get fodder from the crop to feed their livestock. Usually they do all the farm work manually, but this time because of the weather they rented machines to harvest, but these machines got stuck in the mud and did not work, ”Badusha told TNM. .

Out of season rains caused losses at different stages. Farmers spent almost Rs 30,000 per acre to cultivate rice, but this time they failed to recover half of the amount. Most farmers have completely lost the amount spent. Usually in this region the harvest takes place in the first week of November. But due to heavy rains, it was postponed. Rice cultivation is a difficult task in the region. In addition to caring for crops, farmers must also protect them from attack by wild animals.

“Each farmer built a shed and a tree house near the fields to keep them. We spend day and night in the fields taking action to keep wild animals away. We grow paddy organically, it also takes a lot of effort. We have never seen such a change in weather before, ”AK Gopinathan from Alathur tribal hamlet and a member of the Noolpuzha panchayat told TNM.

Not only in Wayanad, farmers in Kerala suffered huge losses due to unusual rains, which occurred due to the development of various low pressure areas in the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea and circulations cyclones in the oceans.

Tinto K Edayadi, a rice farmer from Kuttanad, said farmers in the area have lost the majority of their harvest. “In Kuttanad, we usually do two crops, one is puncha, where the harvest takes place in April. In the second crop (additional crop), the harvest usually takes place in October and November. This time it was postponed due to the unusual rains and we lost the majority of the yield, ”he said.

Farmers in the Kuttanad region generally expect 25 quintals of rice (with bran) per acre of land. But this time, they didn’t even get 10 quintals. Only 40% of Kuttanad cultivate additional crops. The variety of rice usually cultivated is Uma. But this year, most farmers have switched to Manuratna, a high-yielding variety developed by Agricultural Research Station (ARS), Mannuthy, Thrissur. This variety must be harvested within 100 days, but the rains hampered it.

“Another problem we faced was the high rental rates of harvesting machinery. The government’s fixed rate of Rs 2200 for an hour. As the harvest was delayed, the machines were in great demand on the days when there was no rain. So they raised tariffs to Rs 2800 per hour. Moreover, whereas the usual time to harvest an acre is 1 to 1.5 hours even machines took 6 hours as all the fields had become mud pits, so we had to pay five times. In addition, rice that has been soaked by heavy rains had a moisture content. Such rice also has a color change. In the market, this is considered poor, so its price falls, “explained Tinto.

Farmers Sudhakaran from Thrissur and Radhakrishnan from Palakkad shared similar concerns. The state government provides insurance for total crop loss; there is also a small insurance from the Union government for partial crop losses. But all the farmers lamented that the amount of insurance does not cover even a third of their expenses.

Chackochan PJ Chackochan, one of the founders and managing director of Vanamoolika, a Wayanad cooperative that exports high-quality spices, varieties of rice, coffee and other certified organic products, said they were suffering from ‘one disease or another in crops due to the rains. “The disease affects both rice and pepper. So we don’t know how much that will affect performance, ”he said.

Small market gardeners with large agricultural owners were unhappy with insect attacks and diseases caused by the rains, apart from the destruction of crops. This mainly affected organic growers. “All of our vegetables have been lost. Spinach, brinjal and queen’s finger plants have been attacked by various pests. They ate all the leaves. Even if we spray medicines, they are washed away by the rain, ”said Sasi, a small farmer from Aruvikkara in Thiruvananthapuram.

Although all the farmers suffered huge losses during the unusual rains, those who cultivated the paddy were most affected.

On November 11, Kerala Agriculture Minister P Prasad said the state suffered a loss of Rs 493.4 crore in the recent rains wave. A month before that, on October 18, the minister said the loss was Rs 200 crore. The loss had doubled in a month. According to data from the Agricultural Information Management System (AIMS) portal, crop loss on 59,110.81 hectares of land from October 12 to November 4 has been reported.

In October, Kottayam recorded the biggest loss in the agricultural sector, as it was one of the districts worst affected in the rains, followed by floods and landslides. The loss is set at Rs 36.51 crore over 1,936 hectares with 7,094 farmers affected. Cultures include rice, bananas, pepper, cardamom, tapioca, vegetables, coffee, pineapple and many more. The district’s dairy sector also showed a loss of around Rs 19 crore, a district Agriculture Department official said, citing primary assessment figures.

According to data provided by the Minister of Agriculture to the Assembly, Thrissur (Rs 24.84 crore), Kollam (Rs 22 crore), Palakkad (Rs 19.9 crore) and Ernakulam (Rs 18.85 crore) have Kottayam followed in defeat.

In November, Alappuzha recorded the highest loss in the agricultural sector. Spread over 19,348.86 hectares, the area suffered a loss worth Rs 75.24 crore, affecting 28,351 farmers in the district. Thrissur recorded the second highest loss worth Rs 95.07 crore causing damage to 17,841.88 hectares, Minister Prasad said.

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