Double trouble of drought & rain for farmers in Karnataka

Farmers are our great gamblers who have to contend with the vagaries of a scorching summer and stormy monsoon
After the Southwest and Northeast monsoons failed last year, Karnataka government declared 223 taluks as drought-hit
After the Southwest and Northeast monsoons failed last year, Karnataka government declared 223 taluks as drought-hitPhoto | Express

The severe drought over the past year had plunged Karnataka’s farmers into deep distress, and just when the State government started disbursing compensation, heavy rain and winds are adding to their woes. Since the last week of April, heavy pre-monsoon rain accompanied by gusty winds have been reported in many parts of the state, leaving crops damaged.

After the Southwest and Northeast monsoons failed last year, Karnataka government declared 223 taluks as drought-hit
Double whammy: Drought or rain, it’s only loss for farmers in Karnataka

Farmers who depend on agriculture and horticulture crops in Chamarajanagar, Mandya, Mysuru, Haveri and Kalaburagi have lost their banana, onion and tomato crops, besides others. Principal Secretary of the Revenue department Rashmi Mahesh said it is too early to say that rain is causing damage, as crops have been affected in a few pockets. Compensation is being paid as per norms.

After the Southwest and Northeast monsoons failed last year, the State government declared 223 taluks as drought-hit, and sought Rs 18,177 crore in financial assistance from the Centre for drought relief. An estimate of crop loss on 46.11 lakh hectares of agricultural land and 2.06 lakh hectares of horticulture land was drawn up.

The state government paid drought compensation to over 32.12 lakh farmers. Officials are verifying documents of over two lakh farmers, and have given each Rs 4,000. The Revenue department also decided to pay compensation to 1.63 lakh farmers whose lands were not registered under the compensation list. “There are 16 lakh farmers who have small landholdings, and the government decided to pay them compensation of Rs 3,000,” sources said.


Saving the lemon trees

Mohammed Rafique Patel is making every effort to help his 25 lemon plants stand in an upright position, to prevent them from withering. But he is well aware that a majority of the plants were fully uprooted and may never stand again. “I know I am making futile efforts, but I can’t see my plants drying up, therefore, with the hope that nature will shower mercy on me, I am trying to salvage the plants with the support of bamboos,” he said.

This is the struggle of Patel who has lost 25 lemon plants which are nearly 15 years old, to the recent gusty winds and rain in his native Ingalagi village in Indi taluk, where Patel has a farm.

What has added to his misery is that these are the same plants he was trying hard to save from drought for nearly 60 days, spending around Rs 1,000 each day to supply water through private tankers.

“The problem with lemon plants is that if they wither away, they will never become green again. The farmer has no choice but to cut it down. Each plant takes at least six years to reach the fruit-bearing period. Farmers like me struggle to save plants, even supplying water through tankers,” he said.

Patel’s problem now is bigger. “It was difficult to save plants, I had to spend money on tankers as the borewells had gone dry. But at least I had some hope that they would survive, and my struggle was for two months as the monsoon would end my woes. But now the plants are fully uprooted, I have replanted around 25 saplings and have to wait for six years,” he said in dismay.

Patel said he was earning around Rs 6 lakh every year from his hundred plants, but now earnings will decline after the loss of nearly 25 fully grown plants.


Winds flatten banana plantations

Basavaraj, a farmer in Jangam Basavapura, Huthur hobli, Kolar district, was waiting for his Yalakki banana crop to command a bumper price, like last year. However, due to heavy wind that destroyed the crop, he suffered a loss of Rs 6 lakh. Last year, he got a bumper crop and earned nearly Rs 6.5 lakh.

This year, his banana plantation on seven acres of land was flattened by winds. Basavaraj said he owns three acres and has taken another four acres on lease. “I invested Rs 50,000 to Rs 60,000 per acre. Last week, heavy winds damaged the crop,” he said. However, mango growers are happy with the recent rain. Narayanaswamy, a mango grower from Srinivasapura, said they will get a good yield.


Drought, rain bring heavy losses

Drought and heavy rain have proved to be a double-edged curse for farmers, especially those who have fields on the banks of Bellary Nala in Belagavi. Their crops were damaged due to drought as well as heavy rain.

Gopal Somanache, one of the farmers who are facing losses due to drought and heavy rain, said that neither nature nor the administration is in their favour. He owns one acre and 27 guntas of fertile land on the banks of Bellary Nala. Of this, the National Highways Authority of India acquired 10 guntas to lay the Halaga-Macche bypass road. He had cultivated paddy in the remaining land.

Somanache said that due to drought, his paddy crop was damaged and he suffered heavy losses. He started cultivating greens like coriander and fenugreek (methi), but recent heavy rain damaged them. Somanache said survival of his family depends on farming, and if this situation continues, it will be very difficult.

Raju Marve, another farmer and social worker, said that since 2013, farmers have been demanding that Bellary Nala be desilted and encroachments removed. But no action was taken, he alleged. Marve said that even a short, heavy spell of rain would flood his fields and damage crops. When in power, the BJP government had promised to provide Rs 800 crore for cleaning and developing Bellary Nala, but nothing happened, he said.


Curse of untimely rain

As many as 131 farmers of Kalaburagi district lost their horticulture crops on about 92.55 hectares of land due to wind and untimely heavy rain in a month, from April 11 to May 10. Revanasiddappa S Kumbar (Appu) of Herur(K) village of Kalagi taluk is among those worst hit by heavy wind and untimely rain. He owns about 12 acres of land, and had cultivated papaya on about three acres. He was just getting his papaya yield and was happy that he would make a good profit as he could sell the fruit for six months.

“Heavy winds and untimely heavy rain on May 9 destroyed my dreams,” said Appu. Almost 90 per cent of the standing papaya crop was damaged, with the estimated loss at around Rs 25 lakh, a worried Appu said. Though he has grown sugarcane on nine acres and it is in good condition, he has to wait for another six months for the yield.

“I change the horticulture crops every alternate year. Previously, I had grown banana and earned a handsome profit. This is the first time I have suffered heavy loss and our family has to cut down on expenses,” Appu said. The assistant director of the Horticulture department visited his field and surveyed the crop loss, he said.


Coffee and pepper in ruin

True to the axiom that farmers gamble with the monsoon, cultivators in the Malnad part of the district, essentially small growers, have borne the brunt of the vagaries of nature this year.

Heatwaves and soaring temperatures continued until April-end, resulting in severe drought and damage to plantation crops like coffee, pepper vines and areca. Farmers are grappling with the problem of crop loss.

In Dinnekere in Aldur hobli limits, DM Manjunatha Swamy, a small grower, owns 15 acres of coffee plantation. He grows pepper as an intercrop and lives with his aged mother, Bhadramma, while his two brothers and sisters have married and moved out.

Small grower Manjunatha Swamy says, “Climate change has adversely affected coffee and pepper crops. Paddy cultivation has stopped due to the wild boar menace. Previously, there was sufficient rain till January and February, which helped produce a bumper pepper crop.

Unfortunately, with drought hitting the area, pepper vines wilted and sprouting grains began to die. I used to get 40kg of dried pepper, but it has come down to 25kg. My land would yield 320kg of pulped Arabica coffee but it has reduced to 150kg,” he says.

Besides, silver oak trees on which pepper vines wind themselves, are affected by disease, and their tender shoots are dying. “The Coffee Board has not come up with a permanent solution. Finally, thunderstorms coupled with hailstones pounded our area in the first week of May, damaging sprouting coffee beans and pepper,” he says.

On crop loss compensation, Swamy said that instead of giving Rs 2,000 for crop loss, the government should provide subsidies for fertilizers, agricultural equipment and pesticides.


Button shedding hits areca farmers

There is one segment which is worst affected by scarcity of rain -- arecanut farmers of Udupi district. Button shedding, also known as fruit drop, the premature falling of young areca fruits, has ruined the prospect of a good reward for their hard work.

Ashwath Narayan Prabhu, a 55-year-old arecanut farmer from Shirlalu in Karkala taluk of Udupi district, says button shedding in his plantation is severe. ‘’Because of scarcity of rain, the young nuts which are white, instead of green, fall prematurely. This season, there will be a considerable drop in yield which will mean huge losses,’’ he said.

One kg of arecanut (peeled) now fetches Rs 370, while last year this time, the price was Rs 400, so the market price is also not so remunerative. Ashwath, who has about 800 mature arecanut trees, said 300 of them are 30 years old. The remaining 500 trees are 15 years old, and last year, Ashwath planted another 500 saplings.

‘When I meet department officials, they say lack of nutrient management would have resulted in the button shedding problem. If I take soil samples for testing, the reports never arrive, so I have stopped approaching the government department,’’ he rued. Ashwath added that because he has his coconut and banana plantations, and rears cows and grows jasmine as well, his revenue model is working. ‘’Otherwise, it’s very difficult for farmers like me,’’ he said.

(With inputs from Firoz Rozindar/Vijayapura, V Velayudham/Kolar, Tushar A Majukar/Belagavi, Ramkrishna Badseshi/ Kalaburagi, B Thipperudrappa/Chikkamagaluru, Prakash Samaga/Udupi)

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