Kharif sowing: Farmers hope monsoon will help make up for lockdown losses

Kharif sowing usually begins here around June 15, nearly a week after the monsoon sets in by around June 10.
After facing the lockdown, farmers in Maharashtra started sowing their kharif crop early to take advantage of a fast approaching monsoon.

Kharif sowing usually begins here around June 15, nearly a week after the monsoon sets in by around June 10.  

However, this year farmers prepared their fields in advance for sowing the short duration crop in the hope that good rainfall would yield a good harvest.

This decision to sow early, at least in some parts of Maharashtra,  particularly in the soybean growing belts of Vidarbha, has led to germination failure that is being blamed on seed quality.

Farmers are still hopeful, though, that with the monsoon progressing well, they will be able to recoup some of the losses.

This is just one of the unusual problems that farmers in the state have faced this year. First, the nationwide lockdown disrupted the supply of seeds from factories to the stockists and distributors. Farmers were compelled to use conventional seeds that they had stored from the last year’s crop.

Then, some farmers in the hinterland who could not access the seeds of their choice were forced to switch to crops such as cotton and paddy.

“Normally, many farmers start procurement of seeds and other inputs about two to three weeks in advance of actual sowing. This year they delayed purchase due to the lockdown, which restricted movement at village and taluka levels. That’s why we started a door-to-door service for them,” said Satish Kagliwal, managing director, Nath Seeds.

A government official disagreed, saying there was no dearth of seeds  as the government had ensure the adequate movement of seeds and other inputs because they were classified as essential commodities.

The overall acreage under kharif sowing, he said, is likely to remain good this year with perhaps an increase of 5-10 per cent.

According to Ram Kaundinya, director general of the Federation of Seed Industry of India, the area under horticulture crops in the state might be lower this year as farmers couldn’t make any money in the previous season. 

In Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, good rains since the beginning of the kharif season have triggered brisk agriculture activity.

Till last week, Telangana received 69 per cent more than normal rainfall that has led to a sharp jump in the acreage of kharif crops.

Last year, in the first 15 days of June, around 63,280 acres were sown, while in 2020 it has jumped to 1.14 million acres with almost 77 per cent under one crop — cotton.

Paddy transplantations will take a little more time to pick up in the region. Neighbouring Andhra Pradesh recorded 61.3 mm of rains between June 1-17, which is almost normal.With paddy being mostly grown under the canal system in Andhra Pradesh, the transplantations will start once the water is released into canals in the Krishna and Godavari delta regions.

Farmers have prepared nurseries while the transplantations are expected to start from next month, said officials.

The state government has set up ‘Raitu Bharosa’ centres in each village to supply seeds and fertilizers, besides providing professional advice to farmers starting this year.

In Odisha, till last week, the area covered under kharif crops (which comprise cereals, pulses, oilseeds, vegetables, spices, and fodder) have been better than 2019.

However, experts said the state’s much-talked about KALIA (or Krushak Assistance for Livelihood & Income Augmentation) scheme hasn’t been a big help during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis as the database of landholders and share-croppers isn’t quite ready.

Under the scheme, small and marginal cultivators are entitled to get Rs 10,000 in two tranches for two crops in a year. Landless sharecroppers are also eligible for Rs 12,000 per annum for three years.

“The government has not compensated farmers for the lockdown period. Now, the government needs to provide at least 50 per cent input subsidy to ensure smooth kharif operations,” said Bhala Chandra Sarangi, national secretary, All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha.

He added: “Over and above the lockdown woes, 10-15 days of heavy rainfall has damaged crops, amplifying worries for the farmers.”

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