KOZHIKODE: Several farmers in the state who invested heavily in polyhouse farming without a proper understanding of its intricacies are in a soup because of low yield and mounting losses.
Many of them now want to exit polyhouse farming, but are unable to do so because they had availed subsidies from the government and have to repay bank loans taken on high interest rates.
N K Roy, a resident of Mathamangalam in Kannur, was lured by the promise of high returns and set up polyhouses on 25 cents of land. “I borrowed `10 lakh at a high interest rate for constructing the polyhouse. I had to invest again on seeds and fertilisers, but there was not enough yield,” said Roy.
Thomas Pulikyath, a farmer in Kalpetta, Wayanad, has tried everything from tomatoes, beans and bitter gourd in the poly house, set up in 35 cents of land. “The construction cost alone came to `12 lakh and I have to pay an interest rate of 13.5 per cent,” he said. Thomas, who is critical of officials of the Agricultural Department, alleged that their lack of technical expertise has compounded the problem.
Abraham Antony, a resident of Edakom in Thaliparamba, invested `60 lakh on a 4,000 sq m polyhouse after pledging his house and property.
“I took the risk expecting high returns. But I realised that it is not a rosy picture as painted by officials,” said Abraham. He blames the crop failure on high humidity here. The volatility of markets is also an issue. But it’s not that all farmers are facing the situation. People like Manimala Joshi, a resident of Thamarasserry, are doing polyhouse farming with the help of consultants and are making profits.
Joshi says he grows spinach in a 1300 sq m polyhouse and earns around `3,000 every day. “This is possible only if farmers are aware of the condition of soil, the climate and the quantum of fertigation,” said Joshi. C Hariharan, an agriculture consultant, who is helping around 15 farmers said polyhouse cultivation should not be taken up without proper knowhow as scientific administration of fertilisers and proper monitoring of climatic conditions is es sential for its success.
K Prathapan, Mission Director, State Horticultural Mission, said there are several technical issues including shortage of firms that can scientifically construct polyhouses. “Farmers also have to invest in equipment like pest-resistant nets and humidity controllers. Polyhouse farming also needs constant attention by the farmer, which many do not provide,” he said. Prathapan said there are over 1,000 polyhouses across the state that are doing well. “In the absence of adequate land, such technology can help augment vegetable production. It would be wrong to say that polyhouse farming is not doing well,” he said. The Mission has plans to study hi-tech farming with help of Kerala Agricultural University and have formed technical teams in all districts to help farmers. He said no studies have been undertaken in the state to probe issues like high humidity, fungal diseases.