KOCHI: At a time when Pokkali farmers are struggling to promote Kerala’s traditional rice variety, the Agriculture Department seems to be turning a blind eye to the initiative.
Though it has been weeks since the Pokkali rice has been harvested, the farmers are yet to receive the subsidies, a package promised by the government every year.
“The harvest was completed by the end of last month and by early November. However, we are yet to get the subsidies usually provided for procurement of seeds and the cost of labour involved for the harvest and other activities.
The farmers involved in this highly labour-intensive work are supposed to receive the subsidies at the beginning of the ploughing season. If delayed, they are forced to depend on loans which will put a financial burden on them. If the government fails to pay subsidies for such labourers at the right time, hundreds of farmers will be discouraged from taking up pokkali farming,” said Benny K L, one of the convenors of the Pokkali Samrakshana Samithi in Ezhupunna. The department has cited financial crunch as the major reason for not paying money to the farmers. “This is ironic. They spent crores of rupees for hosting the international agriculture fest. But when it comes to giving the much-needed assistance to the farmers who are the backbone of the agriculture sector, they say that they don’t have the finances and are facing loses,” the members of the Samrakshana Samithi said.
Every year, farmers receive subsidy for procurement of seeds, ploughing and harvesting which was increased this year. None of the farmers in Aroor, Ezhupunna, Kodamthuruthu, Thuravoor and Cheranalloor have got the subsidies.
A farmer in Cheranalloor panchayat said that the failure of the Agriculture Department to provide subsidy has added to the woes as his crops were destroyed this year. “Shrimp cultivation, which is the other farming activity which takes place in the same land, is supposed to begin only on November 15. But some people began shrimp cultivation earlier than the stipulated time, which resulted in destruction of my crops,” said Chandu, a farmer. “We have received a circular to distribute the subsidy funds. The funds are yet to be released, said Sudharma, Deputy Director, Agriculture Department.