TIRUCHY: Banana farmer P Kathamuthu (59) has a four-acre farm in Vayalur village in Manikandam taluk of Tiruchy district. His crop has crossed its half cycle and is in need of protection, manure and once-a-week wetting. All that is labour-intensive. So Kathamuthu needs money for material and wages. But the Bid D is keeping him from getting anywhere near his bank account.
This is the season of strong winds as Cyclone Vardah showed us last week. The whole plantation can be uprooted anytime. To avert it, Kathamuthu has to prop up the crop with casuarina poles. That costs at at least Rs 60,000 per acre but he is subject to the withdrawal limit of Rs 24,000 per week — if the bank’s cash reserve lasts that far. The problem really is that labourers, suppliers, traders and even wives have been tardy getting on the cashless bus.
Price of bananas:
|Before Big D||Rs 250-300|
|After Big D||Rs 100|
Big D has proved to be the banana peel on which the farmers of Tiruchy are slipping. Seventy-five-year-old M Subbaiyan’s three-acre plantation needs potash, superphosphate and urea, which altogether cost around Rs 12,000 per acre. Then there are labour costs of Rs 5,000 per acre. He did the vigil at the bank last week and was rewarded with Rs 20,000 — enough for one acre but not the other two.
Banana economy, key figures:
“Like we have breakfast in the morning and lunch in the afternoon, our crops need manure on time,” explains Subbaiyan. The paddy farmers of Kathamuthu tell much the same story. They have cultivated the ADT 39 cultivar, banking on a diesel-powered borewell to irrigate it since canal-based irrigation and the northeast monsoon have both failed. They need at least Rs 1,500 per day to buy fuel and pay wages to farmhands. N Rajendiran, a paddy farmer of Vayalur, says demonetisation has distorted the labour scenario in villages, adding to the effects of the MGNREGS, which made labour scarce to farmers.