THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Recent strong winds and heavy rain triggered by the recent cyclone destroyed crops, but farmers couldn’t sell even whatever they could salvage because of the triple lockdown. As a desperate measure, WhatsApp groups have been formed by agricultural officers to help farmers sell their produce
My banana cultivation in 75 cents of land was completely destroyed in the recent strong winds and heavy rain occurred due to Cyclone Tauktae in the state. From the 520 plantains that I planted, more than 200 were completely destroyed. Some plantain bunches, which were just a few months old, were also lost with no option for replanting and these had to be thrown away,” said Jayakumar P, a farmer from Venganoor in the district.
Besides the banana plantation, Jayakumar also lost the spinach cultivation in 30 cents. Jayakumar said, “The triple lockdown has also affected the business badly with we not being able to travel outside and sell the veggies. At least half of my spinach cultivation has been destroyed in the heavy rain. I am unable to sell the remaining spinach because of the lockdown imposed.”
Like Jayakumar, more than 5,000 plantain trees belonging to over 50 farmers in Venganoor panchayat and vegetables grown in an estimated two hectares of land were destroyed in the winds and downpour. With monsoon gaining strength and a new storm likely to hit the state on Sunday, the farmers are clueless about how they will make up for the losses incurred due to the natural calamities and the pandemic.
Venganoor panchayat president R S Sreekumar said, “For the past three years, the farmers have been facing a huge financial crisis. During Cyclone Ockhi, many of the coconut trees and plantains were destroyed by the winds. The pandemic led to further loss as sales decreased. Many farmers had taken bank loans for replanting the trees. However, Cyclone Tauktae has caused them further damage.”
According to the panchayat members, an estimated Rs 25 lakh loss has been incurred in Venganoor panchayat in the recent cyclone. The situation has been brought to the notice of agriculture officers. However, the officials said the matter can be addressed only after the lockdown.The situation is no different in other parts of the district.
“I have vegetable cultivation in 25 cents, along with bananas and tapioca. Since there are fewer people on the streets, I was delivering the vegetables to the people’s doorsteps through the orders received in WhatsApp groups. However, with the triple lockdown, that is also not possible now,” said A Radhakrishnan, a farmer from Anad.
Authorities step in
Agriculture department authorities say that though there has been no issue of surplus produce unlike last year, the downpour has caused more damage. “Through the weekly markets, we have been able to sell the farmers’ produce without any problem. Programmes such as Subhiksha Keralam introduced by the state government last year have been helpful in making the state self-sufficient in food even during the pandemic.
However, if the triple lockdown continues, we won’t be able to continue the weekly markets and eco shops. This will affect procurement and sale,” said George Alexander, principal agriculture officer, Thiruvananthapuram. The downpour has also delayed the preparation for the next Onam season which begins this month, said George.