Distressed Nellore farmers declare 'crop holiday'

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Farmers voluntarily keep themselves away from cultivation during late kharif season due to MSP issues and losses in farming

Nellore: Though adequate water and farm inputs are available, farmers are not coming forward to cultivate lands in Nellore. Thanks to the district administration that failed to protect Minimum Support Price to the paddy, farmers voluntarily imposed undeclared crop holiday this year. Even though officials had assured water for 2-3 lakh acres for the second crop, farmers started cultivation in only 50,000-60,000 acres against the expected acreage. This typical situation prevailed in Nellore district due to fear of losses and majority are kept lands barren even though district administration okayed water for 2-3 lakh acres for the late kharif season during the recent IAB meeting. Together with farmers, tenant farmers are also not coming forward to cultivate lands fearing crop losses and additional burden of land lease amount.

Leaders of farmer's associations say out of 5-6 lakh acres of normal cultivation during the second crop, there are sowings in only below 1 lakh acres this year. Normally, farmers incur loss of around Rs 25,000-30,000 per acre for inputs and tenant farmers have additionally to bear the lease amount of around Rs 15,000, equivalent to cost of one putty of paddy.

According to official data, there are around 90,000 tenant farmers that occupy 2/3rd of total farmers, normally cultivate lands leasing from other landlords too and this time they are expressing fears. Moreover, farmers are not getting amount for paddy stocks sold at the RBKs and hence are not showing interest on paddy cultivation.

"Irrigation Advisory Board assured water for 2-3 lakh acres this season and farmers are not interested to take up sowing. Water is available and there is no scarcity for seeds and other inputs. But problem of MSP and rains after four months at the time of harvesting in October-November making them worried," said CSR Koti Reddy, State President of Confederation of Indian Farmers Associations.

In fact, majority farmers faced a tricky situation during Covid pandemic and suffered heavy losses due to lack of MSP and low prices offered by the millers and middlemen. Millers procured 1,100-1,200 kg from the farmers against 850 kg of putty, and the people suffered a loss of Rs 3,000-4,000 per putty.

Consequently, cultivation area in the district has gradually been reduced in the district due to numerous factors and the administration is not resolving all these issues despite assurance for support from the government. Farmer AVR Naidu from Jagadevipet village in Indukurpet mandal said farmers suffered huge losses during previous season. He said out of 15 lakh MT of paddy procured last year, only 3 lakh MT of paddy were procured by the government through RBKs. The rest of stocks were purchased by millers offering Rs 11,500-13,000 per putty against the MSP of Rs 16,600 plus, he added.

Naidu said still farmers have to get arrears of Rs 300 crore from the government for stocks sold in the first crop. Irregularities by RBK staff members are also supporting the millers is also a cause of concern, he explained. He said only millers and middlemen are getting benefitted and hence farmers are not interested on the second crop.

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