VILLUPURAM: Farmers in the district, who had followed the horticultural department’s advice and planted bamboo in their land six years ago, have come forward alleging negligence from the officials and seeking speed action to save the dying crop.
Under the guidance of the National Bamboo Board, officials from the district horticulture department had conducted awareness campaigns in 10 villages near Ulundurpet and Thirunavalur, detailing the benefits of thorn-less bamboo and advising farmers to take up the cash crop.
They provided saplings and promised a subsidy of `20,000-`30,000 per acre. Touting the plant to be a bestseller, owing to the demand in the handicraft industry, they also assured to bring buyers.
This happened six years ago. Even though a year has passed since the stipulated time, no official or buyer has come for the bamboos, which have reached maturity. Though not water intensive, bamboo needs a good level of moisture. A year past harvest time, with the bamboo yellowing due to arid conditions, the farmers are now worried that their hard work for the past five years will go waste.
The farmers reportedly didn’t get the promised subsidy. After the initial hype, officials did not even visit to see if the saplings were growing well, said sources.
“Even we have spent lakhs to grow bamboo. Even though the plants are six-years-old, to me, they look stunted. But since we have never grown it before, we are also not sure what to expect,” said Ilango, a farmer from Ulundurpet.
Adding to the woe, the Horticulture officials who advised them to plant bamboo left long ago, having been transferred to other districts. The current officials do not take any interest in this regard. When they approached agriculture department, they washed their hands off the matter, saying they cannot intervene in a project which was floated by a sister concern.
With no previous experience or guidance, the bamboo planters had trusted the government to take care of them in experimenting with the cash crop. They had forgone fast crops like ground nut, corn and moong daal thinking the harvest after five years will be payback enough. Since bamboo was a clumping plant and did not allow other crops to grow in between, mixed cropping was also not an option.
Demanding that the officials should take immediate action to save the crop, the farmers sought for payment of subsidies. They also appealed to include bamboo as a crop affected by the drought.