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Sudden Switch to Organic Farming Impractical: Kerala Farmers Protest Fertiliser Subsidy Cut

Farmers of the state’s rice bowl have said that the expenses and efficiency of organic farming are not viable for large-scale paddy production.
Sudden Switch to Organic Farming Impractical: Kerala Farmers Protest Fertiliser Subsidy Cut

Image Courtesy: Deccan Herald

Thiruvananthapuram: The price hike and shortage of chemical fertilisers and reduction in subsidies have galvanised the farmers of Kerala. The Kerala Karshaka Sangham (KSS), the state unit of the All India Kisan Sabha, organised protests at 210 centres across the state on Monday demanding the Narendra Modi government’s intervention to ensure the supply of fertilisers at subsidised rates to the farmers.

The subsidy was slashed, according to the government, to promote chemical-free organic farming. However, paddy farmers from Kuttanadu, the state’s rice bowl, told Newsclick that a sudden switch to organic farming is impractical.

KP Kuttappan, a farmer from Kuttanadu, Alappuzha district, uses urea, potash, and FACTAMFOS in his six-acre paddy cultivation. “The hike in fertiliser prices in recent years has been a major worry. Due to the resultant increase in the cost of production, we only manage to recover the labour cost,” he tells Newsclick.

Though farmers get better prices for their harvest since the Kerala Civil Supplies Corporation started procuring paddy directly from them, the entire crop is affected whenever the shortage of fertilisers aggravates, Kuttappan says.

As the secretary of Valiyathuruthu Padashekhara Samithi, or the Valiyathuruthu Paddy Producers Coordination Committee, in Kainakari Panchayath, Kuttappan coordinates 94 farmers cultivating paddy in 101 acres to raise their requirements to the authorities. From the experience of these farmers, he says, a sudden switch to organic farming is impractical. “The availability of organic manure is much more limited. The expenses and efficiency of organic farming are not viable for large-scale paddy production,” he adds.

Pramod, a local organiser of KSS in Kuttanadu, also insists on the requirement of subsidised chemical fertilisers. “It is not practical to enforce complete organic farming in the region, where paddy is cultivated in hundreds of acres,” he says.

Farmers will be “severely impacted due to further shortage of fertilisers and the hike in their prices in the next season following the budgetary announcement,” Pramod says adding, “if the subsidies for fertilisers are not restored, there will be a series of agitations in the region”.

M Vijayakumar, president, KSS tells Newsclick that the Centre’s claim of promoting organic farming is a “gimmick to divert attention” from the cut in fertiliser subsidy. “Urgent intervention of the Central government is needed to ensure fertilisers at a subsidised rate for farmers. Monday’s protest was the beginning of more intensified struggles.”

The KSS will also raise the issue during a mass protest in March-April against the commerce and industry ministry’s proposal for repealing the Rubber Act, 1947, and replacing it with the Rubber (Promotion and Development) Bill, 2022, Vijayakumar said. 

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