HYDERABAD: A great agrarian crisis seems to be in the making. Farmers who had cultivated the superfine variety of rice (sannalu) in abundance in the State are now at their wits’ end with no buyers in sight. Tractors with loads of paddy are queuing up in front of the rice mills. The farmers with stocks of fine variety of rice are caught unawares as the millers are not ready to pay even MSP (`1,888 per quintal) and are offering a price way below this. In Telangana, of the total cropped area of 53 lakh acres, sannalu was raised in 39.66 lakh acres from which the expected yield of paddy is 99.15 lakh tonnes.
That the market would fall for sannalu was something the farmers did not expect. Though raising sannalu is fraught with uncertainty in terms of yield, they, nevertheless, went ahead as the crop was recommended by the government. Only those who follow the government’s advice become eligible for the Rythu Bandhu subsidy of `5,000/per acre in a season. But untimely rains damaged the crop and whatever was salvaged is of poor quality and with high moisture content.
Millers did not like the sight of it. On Sunday, a farmer in Dubbaka set fire to his paddy crop after it was damaged in the recent rains and then attempted suicide. With neither the government nor the millers showing interest in buying sannalu, farmers are in a fix.
They do not know whom they should turn to as police are stopping the tractors entering Miryalaguda in Nalgonda district where there is a high concentration of rice mills. The reason the police give is that there are already several tractors waiting for the millers to take their stock. The coarse variety of rice is trading at `1,888 per quintal as per MSP while the the fine rice is selling at `1,700 to `1,800 per quintal.
Farmers say heavy rains led to sharp decline in sannalu yields
In Miryalaguda, the Rice Millers Association has called for a two day-closure of purchase on the account of excess stocks. Each day, around 3,000 tractors are arriving in Miryalaguda but the mills’ capacity is just about half of the produce waiting to be lifted.
“Fearing that untimely rain would damage their crops, farmers are resorting to panic selling,” said Rukmini Devi, Nalgonda District Civil Supplies Officer. Millers even in erstwhile Mahbubnagar district say farmers are bringing paddy full of moisture directly to the mills after cutting it with harvesting machines. Karimnagar and Warangal, Rice Millers’ Associations have stopped accepting paddy for custom-milled rice (CMR) in protest against Food Corporation of India not accepting “pure quality CMR”. As a result, paddy procurement has been temporarily halted.
In erstwhile Medak district, farmers who have grown sannalu say the recent heavy rains have led to a sharp decline in yields. Farmers say they used to get 35 to 40 bags per acre when Doddu variety paddy was harvested. But they got only 20 bags per acre in sannalu. Said Nakkala Bapureddy, the farmer from Paddagundavelli village in Dubbaka mandal of Siddipet district: “I set fire to my crop on Sunday as the crop has been damaged due to rain and whatever that I could salvage was not getting a good price. “
Siddipet District Rice Millers’ Association president K Chandrasekhar said that the yield is less from Sannalu paddy and that is why they cannot take it at MSP.
Rs 2,500 per quintal sought
Anger and despair was noticeable among the hundreds of farmers who gathered at Dharna Chowk near Indira Park in Hyderabad on Monday to put forward their various demands. Chief among which were provision of `20,000 per acre as compensation to all farmers who faced crop damage due to the heavy rains this year. They sought procurement of Sannalu at the rate of `2,500 per quintal. They also demanded that the Central government repeal the recently passed Farm Acts.
Close to 300 farmers from different districts gathered for the protest organized by the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) and spoke of their travails. Ashok Reddy, a farmer from Miryalaguda in Nalgonda district said, “Many rice mills are not procuring paddy. The rice mills that are ready to buy are deciding their own prices, which are much lower than the MSP. It took us 120 days to sow and reap the harvest. Now it is taking almost half of that time just to sell the produce.”
Kavitha, another farmer from Nalgonda whose husband died by suicide a couple of years back due to losses in farming, said, “After my husband’s death I started farming. My crop was damaged in the recent rains but the government has not even done a survey of crop damage so far. No compensation has been provided. I have to support my parents, husband’s parents and children. How am I supposed to do it?”