Kerala: Paddy Farmers Urge Government to Disburse Procurement Dues for Previous Season
Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
The paddy farmers in Kerala are awaiting payment for the procurement in the previous harvest season during September- October 2022. The Kerala Civil Supplies Corporation, or the Supply Co, procured around 63.78 lakh kgs of paddy from the farmers during the season.
Of the Rs 1805.12 crore for the procurement, only Rs 708.68 has been disbursed, leaving the farmers distressed. The farmers are demanding the government to disburse the balance amount of Rs 1097.71 crore immediately through cooperative banks and the Kerala Bank, as done before, instead of the present system of disbursal through specific nationalised banks.
Despite the state government's intervention, the farmers continue to be affected by the increasing input costs, low production and productivity. The area under cultivation of paddy, for both wetland and upland cultivation, has registered a significant drop in 2021-22, as per the economic survey of the State Planning Board.
The Palakkad and Alappuzha districts, the two districts with the highest area under cultivation for paddy, have followed the pattern prevalent across the state in production and productivity.
DISBURSE DUES THROUGH CO-OP BANKS
The government of Kerala procures paddy from the registered farmers at Rs 28.20/kg, the highest in the country. But, the inordinate delay in transferring dues has upset the farmers. Speaking to NewsClick, a paddy farmer and a local-level activist of the Kerala Karshaka Sangham (affiliated to the All India Kisan Sabha) from Palakkad district raised concerns of the farmers.
On condition of anonymity, he said, “The farmers are facing challenges of increasing input, labour costs and other expenses for harvesting and transportation of the paddy. Together with these challenges, the payment is being delayed.”
Paddy is cultivated in 1.93. lakh hectares in the state which is 7.69% of the cultivated area in the state during 2021-22. Of the total area under paddy cultivation, Palakkad district accounts for 39% of the total area.
“Given the higher area under cultivation, the number of farmers affected in the districts is also very high. A speedy solution is required to save the farmers from debt,” the farmer demanded.
Earlier, the government of Kerala disbursed the amount through Cooperative Banks or the Kerala Bank branches. The farmers rely on these banks for agriculture loans and other transactions, making these banks their preferred option. Still, the recent change of disbursal through selected nationalised banks has created more troubles.
“We must start from scratch by opening a new account in any prescribed bank. That too will not guarantee how quickly the dues would be transferred by the government,” he added.
FALL IN PRODUCTION DESPITE GOVT INTERVENTION
Despite several attempts from the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in the state, the area under paddy cultivation recorded a dip in 2021-22. The area under cultivation increased to 2.01 lakh ha in 2020-21, and the cultivation area has fallen to 1.93 lakh ha in 2021-22 but is better than 1.91 lakh ha in 2019-20.
Besides the reduction in wetland paddy cultivation, the upland paddy cultivation also is faring poorly, with cultivated area falling to 1784 ha in 2021-22 from 3175 ha in the previous year.
Of the three seasons in the state, namely Viruppu in Autumn, Mundakan in Winter and Punja in Summer, the productivity and production decreased in 2021-22 during Virippu and Mundakan. The reduction has been recorded in all the districts except Malappuram and Wayanad.
The LDF government provides input assistance of Rs 5,500 per ha for paddy. In contrast, the respective Local Self-Governments (LSGs) provide Rs 25,000 per ha for input seeds, fertilisers, and pesticides, along with a production bonus of Rs 1,000 per ha. Further, for the conservation of paddy cultivation land, the farmers receive Rs 3,000 per ha.
The government included the ‘Rice Development Program’ in 2019-20 for sustainable rice production, upland paddy promotion, fallow land cultivation, and operationalisation of the Paddy Land and Wetland Act 2008.
Despite several measures from the state government, the falling productivity and production have called for new technological interventions to overcome the crisis. The farmers are looking to the government to initiate steps to provide quality seeds, particular varieties and methodologies.
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