Farmers in distress as fungal disease ruins nutmeg crop
Nutmeg farmers of the district, especially those in the Angamaly/Kalady belt which is a major nutmeg habitat in the state, are in severe crisis due to a massive phytophthora fungal attack drastically ruining their crop. Experts and farmer organisations estimate that there will be at least 35 per cent dip in the total yield this time as compared to the last fiscal.
Since marginal and small farmers constitute the majority of nutmeg farming community for whom it is the single source of income, the crop loss can generate intense economic and social crisis. The impact of the attack can adversely affect the farmers and economy for the next three to four years, Jose Thettayil MLA pointed out.
“The rise in humidity because of unprecedented rain is the main factor behind the spread of the fungus. It firstly creates water-soaked lesions in the leaves. These lesions then spread to other parts of the tree. Many trees have been damaged in this belt because of the attack,” pointed out Thomas Samuel, agricultural officer, Kalady.
Samuel said the fungal attack had intensified due to the severe rain.
“Ideally, the affected leaves should be burned. But because of rain, the farmers could not do it and the infection spread through rain water. The situation is extremely serious. Nutmeg-growing regions near Angamaly like Karukutti, Mookannur, Kanjoor, Kaladi and Thuravoor are critically affected,” he pointed out.
“The farmers are facing a livelihood crisis with their sole source of income getting ruined. If not tackled, the crisis will devastate the region,” pointed out Johny Vadakkancherry, a farmer and president of Jeevagramam, a NGO involved in organic nutmeg farming.
“It is unfortunate that the government and other governmental agencies are not intervening in the crisis, citing technical issues,” he said.
It is said that because of technical reasons, nutmeg farmers cannot get financial assistance from the projects run by local self institutions. “As of now the panchayat has limitations. We need a special order from Thiruvananthapuram. We have given representations to the Agriculture Minister,” said Kalady panchayat president K B Sabu. “Nutmeg brings remarkable foreign currency to the state. But nutmeg farmers are receiving a step-motherly treatment.
Citing technical reasons of not having mandate, institutions like spices board, agriculture department and local self institutions evade from providing enough technical and financial support to the farmers.
If there is a confusion, government should immediately make it clear by coming with fresh orders,” Johny said.
Principal Agricultural Officer Saleena George promised the district authorities would assist the farmers. “We have brought the issue to the notice of the higher-ups,” she said.