The fields beckon

 thehindu.com  08/02/2020 18:13:31 

The recent copious rains in Andhra Pradesh have brought cheer to farmers and agriculture officials. Kharif crop cultivation is steadily picking up momentum. The cultivation target for all crops, including food grains, oilseeds, cotton and sugarcane, in kharif season has been set at 39.59 lakh hectares as against the normal crop acreage of 37.42 lakh hectares.

Farmers are hopeful of reaping a bumper yield this season. The reason for their happiness is that during the same time last year, the rainfall was far below compared to this year. The rainfall recorded so far is excess in 10 districts and normal in three districts of Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam.

All the major reservoirs are holding 429.57 tmcft as on July 29 compared to 189.78 tmcft at the same time last year. The season normal rainfall is 556 mm. Overall, the average rainfall received in the State from June 1 to July 27 is recorded as 328.3 mm as against the normal as on date of 238.9 mm showing an excess of 37.4%.

Hence, the State may not face any irrigation water problem during kharif. But for tenant farmers loan eligibility cards (LECs) issue, the farmers are not coming forward to give their consent, says an official who did not wish to be quoted.

Despite non- availability of agricultural labourers in view of the COVID situation, the sowing operations have gained momentum. Cultivation of foodgrains is more than normal as on date, while oil seeds like groundnut and sesame along with other crops, including cotton, chilli and sugarcane, is less than normal.

Sowing

While the target is 39.58 lakh hectares, the sowing operations in 20.05 lakh hectares are completed as on July 29. Also, unlike in the past, there are no agitations or serpentine queues by farmers to buy seeds. The government, for the first time, supplied seeds in villages through the Rythu Bharosa Kendras (RBKs). The government has planned to supply 10.85 lakh quintals of seeds this session. So far, 6.73 lakh quintals have been supplied. Of this, 4.50 lakh quintals is groundnut seed and 1.88 lakh quintals paddy.

The seed distribution was launched by taking the village as a unit. Paddy cultivation is at the transplantation stage. Pulses, oilseeds and sugarcane crops are at a vegetative stage, officials say.

The cultivation target for paddy this kharif is 15.90 lakh hectares. It is less than last years target of 16.25 lakh hectares. The decline in some districts is primarily due to switching over to other crops or aquaculture, which farmers feel is a better option than paddy cultivation, sources say.

The AP Ryotu Sangham State general secretary K.V.V. Prasad says that tenant farmers are not getting loan eligibility cards. Due to labour shortage in Krishna delta, the farmers are switching over to direct sowing. In East and West Godavari, Kurnool and Anantapur districts farmers suffered losses due to heavy rains. They had to take up sowing operations for the second time, he explains.

Andhra Pradesh State Agriculture Mission Vice-Chairman M.V.S. Nagi Reddy says the year 2020 will be as promising as 2019 to farmers. While the seasons normal sowing is 54%, the area sown is 110%. After a gap of 7-8 years, the sowing has surpassed the normal. Farmers will benefit if productivity also increases.

Tenant farmers issues

For instance, the productivity of paddy increased by 4.52% in 2019-20 compared to 2018-19. The government has enacted the Andhra Pradesh Crop Cultivator Rights Act 2019 so as to ensure that tenant farmers get loans. The landowners should understand that the consent was only for 10 months and the tenant farmers liability will not be passed on to the landowner. Tenant farmers will also be benefited under the Rythu Bharosa scheme. Nowhere in the country, have tenant farmers been extended such benefits, he says.

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