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Kerala paddy farmers expect a bonanza

Farmers in Palakkad, Alappuzha and Thrissur have pleasantly been surprised by what looks like a bumper paddy crop this season, but some of them, specially those in Palakkad, may not be able to reap the full benefits of the high price for paddy being offered by the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation (Supplyco) which has put a quantity-per-hectare ceiling on procurement.

Farmers in Palakkad, who took to machine planting, have reported yields of about nine tonnes a hectare. However, Supplyco ceiling for procurement at Rs.19 a kg is 5.5 tonnes a hectare. But a Supplyco official said that farmers in Palakkad would be able to sell their entire harvest provided they produced a certificate of production from their respective agricultural officers.

The official said that the ceiling had been imposed to prevent cheaper paddy from neighbouring States like Tamil Nadu being sold to the corporation. Supplyco offers the highest procurement price for paddy in the country, the official claimed.

The high procurement price has made it attractive for unscrupulous elements to smuggle in paddy and sell it for a profit, passing the consignments as local produce. Though small farmers would not be able to engage in such operations, agents have been found indulging in it. Paddy sells between Rs.15 and Rs.16 a kg in the open market in Kerala.
Kole area

Farmers in Thrissur’s Kol areas have also reported higher than normal yields this season. Most of Kuttanad is expecting better yields this season despite the unusually dry conditions in December and January. Reports from the area, where harvesting is about a week old, said the yield is in the vicinity of 7.5 tonnes a hectare.

The Supplyco procurement ceiling is 7.5 tonnes a hectare in Kuttanad and eight tonnes a hectare for Thrissur Kol.

The high procurement price has made farmers rush to Supplyco. The corporation has procured more than 70,000 tonnes of paddy this season and about 30,000 tonnes of this is from Palakkad. Procurement in Alappuzha is more than 5,000 tonnes and in Thrissur it is more than 20,000 tonnes. Procurement in Kottyam district has gone up to more than 12,000 tonnes. Central to this season’s bumper crop is the Uma variety of paddy, developed by the Mankombu rice research station of Kerala Agricultural University and released in 1998.

A senior scientist at the Rice Research Station told The Hindu on Sunday that researchers were yet to develop a variety that would out-yield Uma. The variety was developed with the specific conditions in Kuttanad in mind, where excessive acidity and pest attacks are major problems.

The scientist said that yields have been up to eight tonnes a hectare during some of the past seasons and this year the crop has been bit of a surprise because the climatic conditions appeared to be adverse given that there were no rains in November-December. Occasional rain during these months helps wash out the excessive acidity in the soil.

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