Thursday, July 24, 2014

Impact On Farmers `I Will Not be Able to Get My Daughter Married'

Jul 24 2014 : The Economic Times (Kolkata)
Impact On Farmers `I Will Not be Able to Get My Daughter Married'

It's been a rainy week, but the long, dry patch has hit farmers hard. Many now stare at lower output and some hard choices JAYASHREE BHOSALE in Ahmednagar district, SUTANUKA GHOSAL in Hooghly district, RAJI REDDY Kesireddy in Medak, Karimnagar & Warangal districts, MADHVI SALLY in Mathura district The Cause...
Rafiquddin Mondol, a 45-year-old farmer from Polba-Dadpur block of Hooghly district, is a worried man. He may have to defer his 18-year old daughter's marriage this November if it does pour in the next one week. "My paddy nursery is ready. But I cannot transplant the saplings as it has not rained and the fields are almost dry," he says.Irrigating the land himself involves a cruel tradeoff. "It will double my cost of production, to Rs 40,000," he explains.
"I will not be able to marry off my daughter." Even if it rains now, Mondal says, his production -and his income -will be less than normal this year.
In Gangetic West Bengal, India's largest rice-producing region, monsoon rains have been 20-60% below normal.
It's the same elsewhere. Across agricultural beds of India, the difference is only in the quantum of waiting, the degree of pain felt by farmers and the tradeoffs they are having to make. Every key agricultural bed is suffering (See map).
Farmers stare at parched fields and shattered dreams.
Planting of crops is as bad as it was in 2009, when the worst drought in 37 years destroyed crops. After a painful six-week delay, rains finally soaked parched fields in many parts, reducing the all-India seasonal monsoon deficit from 43% to 27% on July 22, according to the India Meteorological Department. Disaster has been averted for now. The distress remains.
Bad Timing Wheat and rice, the main summer crops (kharif season), are normally planted with the first flush of rains in June or early July. They need about 120 days in the soil to soak up nutrients, and tending with fertiliser and water. If any part of this process is compromised, there are consequences.
Take planting. Rains picked up only after July 15, which is late. "Even if we are fortunate to have rains by July-end, my paddy output will drop at by least one-fifth," laments 45-year-old Vinod Kumar Choutu, who owns six acres in Narsapur village of Medak district in Telangana.
Several farmers are planting shorter-duration varieties of wheat, or other crops that can be harvested by November, when the next cropping season (rabi) begins. But late planting reduces growth and increases the risk of diseases. Also, both these categories of crops are less remunerative. A shift from a cash crop like cotton to a coarse grain like bajra can cause a farmer's income to fall 75%. Last year, farmers in Maharashtra received Rs 4,500-5,200 per quintal of cotton.
By comparison, bajra fetches Rs 1,0001,300 per quintal. 1,300 per quintal.
In Sangvi village in Maharashtra, Goraksha Hadke had set out to plan his daughter's wedding by Diwali. Instead, that wedding is postponed to next June, and Hadke is planning gradations of damage limitation in his fields, one eye on the skies. "If it rains in the next two to three days, I will sow cotton," he explains. "If it rains in the next eight days, I will have to sow bajra. And if it does not rain in the next 10 days, I will be able to sow only rabi jowar, if the rainfall is sufficient for rabi sowing."
Hadke has to pay about Rs 1.5 lakh a year to educate his son, an engineering student in Ahmednagar district. He has been unable to plant anything in his 22 acres. Almost all farmers in Pune, Nashik and Aurangabad regions of Maharashtra narrate a similar story of distress.
The state has already lost almost its entire crop of moong and urad. It's missed the golden period of sowing cotton, from June 15 to July 15. Even if it rains now, yields of cotton and soybean in non-irrigated tracts are expected to be very low, while some farmers will have to re-sow. A large number of farmers will have to skip the kharif crop entirely and go for rabi.
Water And Livelihoods At the nub of it all is water. Well-off farmers in the droughtprone region of Pathardi, in Maharashtra, invest a few lakh in pipelines or tankers to irrigate fields of export-quality pomegranates. Then, there are others like Daryab Singh of village Jugasan in Mathura district, who can consider the prospect of irrigation -by his estimate, 20 litres of diesel to pump out water for each acre -but maybe not this year. "I have a loan of Rs 2.65 lakh to repay," he says. "I would have sailed through with a good crop."
Others like 27-year-old Shahdev Jadhav of Prabhu Pimpri village live and struggle by the rains. Jadhav works as a sugarcane labourer with his wife and three children for six months in Latur district. "I wanted to buy a cow, and then increase their numbers so that we do not have to work in others' fields," he says. "But as I cannot grow cotton now, I will have to let go off that plan."
From the little water that collects at the bottom of his tube well, Jadhav has planted ladyfinger and guar on one guntha (100 sq metres) each, which takes care of their food needs, but the plants are wilting. "We sometimes collect the seeds of a Neem tree and sell in the local market at Rs 5 a kg, when there is nothing to eat at home," his wife, Sangita, says.
Near Mathura, Chaudhary Om Prakash made a 15 km journey from his village Karab on a broken road to hear Rakesh Babu, the deputy director-agriculture in the district. He was cynical. "The government is advising us to go for late-sowing variety of paddy till July 31 and even bajra till August 15," he says. "They also advised us to go for rashtriya krishi fasal bima yojana (a crop insurance plan). But nobody told us why we can't get water in the canal or electricity to pump water," says this farmer, who grows paddy on 10 acres and vegetables on 3 acres.
Plans to build houses and buy assets lie on paper. Marriages are being postponed.
Loans and moneylenders are entering conversations. And farmers are looking to governments for relief.
Government Relief The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), which assures 100 days of employment in a year to every rural household, is a big relief for the rural poor. Gurrala Kishtaiah, a 66-year-old farmer in Pedda Chintakunta village of Medak district in Telangana, is bracing to take up a farm labour assignment if things worsen. "I hope and pray the government extends NREGA to agriculture, which could help marginal farmers like me to meet the daily needs of my family," says Kishtaiah, who has a two-acre patch.
Beneficiaries still have to navigate the web of corruption that plagues this government scheme. "We do not get NREGA work. Those who are close to the ruling party get it," rues Basanti Ahiri, a farm labour in West Bengal, adding that she will be forced to look for jobs in the construction industry.
According to Milind Mhaiskar, secretary, relief commissioner, project director relief and rehabilitation in Maharashtra, attendance in NREGA in the state fell last week, from 250,000 to 225,000 as many parts received good rains. His department, Mhaiskar adds, is prepared to tackle a drought. "Anticipating scanty rainfall, we have given extension to schemes," he says. In the last 18 months, the secretary says, Maharashtra spent Rs 12,000 crore on drought relief measures: Rs 1,500 crore each towards cattle camps and water tankers, and Rs 9,000 crore as ex-gratia compensation to farmers for crop loss.
Farmers can avail of the National Crop Insurance Scheme, which pays, for example, Rs 16,500 per hectare of cotton. But officials say only one-fourth avail of it as not all can afford the premiums. In Uttar Pradesh, the government was expected to give a 50% subsidy on diesel in case rains failed. "Rains have arrived and the Met department is forecast ing more," says DM Singh, di rector, agriculture department, in Uttar Pradesh.
A similar assessment is made by M Madhusudhana Rao, commissioner of agriculture, Andhra Pradesh. "In 2012, we didn't have rains the entire July, but the overall output was good." Adds Singh: "We are hopeful of covering up on sowing." A lot is dangling on that one word: hope. The Cause...
Rainfall (in mm) for the period June 1 to July 22 Excess (+20% or more) Normal (+19% to -19%) Deficient (-20% to -59%) Scanty (-60% to -99%) No Rain (-100%) All-India Rainfall (mm)* By Sub-divisions *All-India area weighted rainfall Excess Normal Deficient Scanty No rain Actual Normal Departure (%) 0 12 22 2 0 266.7 366.7 -27 Source: India Meteorological Dept -60% ...And Effect LATE CROPPING: Late rainfall forces farmers to shift to short-duration crops; at times, from cash crops to food crops or even fodder INCOME SHRINKAGE: Short-duration crops have lower yields. The shift from cash crops to grain means much lower returns DISTRESS OPTIONS: Farmers try to irrigate land using costly diesel pumps. They need to buy seeds all over again if plants dry up completely. Some are thinking of working as labourers PERSONAL CHOICES: Farmers are deferring family weddings, or plans to build a pucca house, buy consumer goods or tractors. They may also turn to moneylenders Clarification This is in reference to the July 15 story `Do PE Funds Make Bad Chefs?', which said the relationship, and subsequent parting of ways, between PE fund Navis Capital and Nirula's promoter Samir Kuckreja was not entirely amicable. In response to the story, Samir Kuckreja has issued the following statement: "Samir Kuckreja successfully grew the Nirula's brand from 35 outlets to 85 outlets between 2006 and 2012. He had a synergistic partnership with Navis Capital and exited his investment in the business to them in April 2012. Nicholas Bloy, managing partner, Navis Capital, said at that time: "Samir has become a good friend during the period of Navis investment and I will miss him. He has been an integral part of the company, and instrumental in growing the brand and its footprint. We wish him well for his future endeavors."

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