Kerala agriculture economy sweating over poor monsoon, farmers feel the heat

A dismal year awaits the state’s agri-economy following a sharp 30 per cent deficit in rains this monsoon so far in Kerala.

Published: 14th August 2017 01:52 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th August 2017 07:43 AM   |  A+A-

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Express News Service

KOCHI: A dismal year awaits the state’s agri-economy following a sharp 30 per cent deficit in rains this monsoon so far in Kerala. The situation is much worse in northern districts, where the rain shortfall could be as high as 50 per cent.

Experts reckoned there would be at least 20 per cent decline in production in cardamom, pepper and coffee this year in Kerala. As far as paddy is concerned, the farmers in north Kerala are on the edge as they are pumping water into the fields from nearby brook for the ongoing paddy replanting season.

Kanjirappally-based planter Joshy Joseph Manniparambil, who is big time into pepper and cardamom cultivation in Tamil Nadu, said the scanty rains this year would spell trouble for Kerala. “Being a cardamom farmer, I can say for sure the production will be lower by at least 20 per cent,” said Joshy. But thankfully, the prices are high at Rs 1,200/kg, compared to Rs 600/kg in 2014.  Pepper farmers have been hit hard as they are faced with less production and lower prices due to the spice’s big imports from Vietnam, he said.

Kerala Agriculture University Research Director P Indira Devi said the state had to realign to the new water-deficit reality.  “We’ve been used to abundant supply of water, splurging it not just in our daily use but also in our agricultural practices,” said Indira Devi.

The patchy rain is affecting the state’s agriculture sector in more ways than one. For one, there is an increase in the irrigated area in the state in the last 3-4 years, Indira Devi said.

AS per the Economic Review, the agriculture and allied sectors, which recorded a growth rate of 1.43 per cent in 2011-12 witnessed a negative growth rate of (-) 6.31 per cent in 2013-14, (-) 1.09 per cent in 2014-15 and (-) 2.9 per cent in 2015-16.The share of agriculture and allied Sectors in the total GSDP of Kerala has also declined from 14.38 per cent in 2011-12 to 11.48 per cent in 2014-15 and to 10.38 per cent in 2015-16.

“We need to popularise new crop-water technology for most efficient irrigation, given the reality of unpredictable monsoon,” said Indira Devi. In 2016, the monsoon deficiency in Kerala was 36 per cent.
Rajesh Nair, a farmer in Wayanad who quit the Greenpeace to plunge full-time into organic cultivation of ethnic rice varieties, said it was going to be hard times for farmers like him. The paddy-rice replantation (njaru nadeel) is done during July-August in north Kerala while the process will be complete in south by June.

“We (in Wayanad) are pumping water into the paddy fields from the nearby small canals. But due to scanty rains, the springs haven’t broken out from the brooks and canals so far, which is a cause for big worry,” said Rajesh.

Not just paddy, the shortage of rains is also affecting coffee and pepper production too, he said. “The pollination in pepper happens during the rains, and this is same with coffee,” Rajesh explained.
This means, there will be a sharp decline in production of not just paddy, but pepper and coffee too this year.

Due to the use of water pumps, investment has gone over the roof this year. Further, the untimely ‘returning monsoon’ or Northeast monsoon (mid-October) during the paddy flowering season will increase the chaff, and reduce the production.

DOWNPOOR

34 per cent deficit in 2016
30 per cent deficit so far in 2017
Last year’s north-west monsoon (retreating monsoon) was also poor
Agri sector showed a negative growth rate of (-) 6.31 per cent in 2013-14, (-) 1.09 per cent in 2014-15 and (-) 2.9 per cent in 2015-16
Share of agriculture in the total GSDP of Kerala fell from 14.38 per cent in 2011-12 to 11.48 per cent in 2014-15 and to 10.38 per cent in 2015-16

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