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Cash crunch hits wheat-sowing activities in Punjab, Haryana

black money crackdown Updated: Nov 19, 2016 22:52 IST

Long queues outside a bank at Connaught Place in New Delhi on Friday.(Saumya Khandelwal/HT PHOTO)

The cash crunch in the country, created through the demonetisation of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes by the Union government, has taken its toll on wheat-sowing activities in Punjab and Haryana.

With the cash flow slowing down to a trickle, wheat farmers in the two states are finding it hard to initiate the agricultural process. They do not have money required to meet input costs such as seeds, fertilisers and diesel. According to experts, even a single day’s delay can affect the harvest.

Data accessed by HT shows that 75% of wheat has been sown in Punjab’s fields till now – translating to around 26 lakh hectares of the state’s 35 lakh-hectare coverage area.

“Sowing work should ideally be finished by November 15, and any delay means suffering a loss of 1.5 quintals per acre every week (18-20 quintal per acre is the average production),” said agriculture director JS Bains.

In Haryana, wheat is sown across two belts in a staggered manner. At present, sowing has been completed in around 70% of the 19 lakh hectares across the state’s southern and northern parts. However, there are another 5.5 lakh hectares of land in the cotton belt, where sowing of wheat goes on till mid-December. Many farmers who had primed their fields for this activity lack money to purchase seeds, pesticides and fertilisers.

Balbir Singh Rajewal, president of a Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) faction in Punjab, bemoaned how scarcity of money was preventing farmers from sowing wheat on time. “Some farmers managed to get seeds and fertilisers on credit, but not everybody can afford to do that,” he said, adding that the government must take steps to prevent the situation from getting out of hand.

Anil Kumar, a farmer who owns 10 acres of land in Fatehabad, said agriculturists in Haryana have been facing too many problems in the recent past. “First the hailstorm, then the whitefly attack, and now, demonetisation. We are under a lot of stress,” he said.

Avtar Singh, a farmer from Binjon in Punjab, said that while he appreciated the Modi government’s efforts to combat black money, it should have taken the farmers’ plight into consideration before taking the plunge. “I can afford to buy seeds and fertilisers on credit to sow wheat. However, many small farmers don’t have that luxury. Even I am facing difficulty buying pipes for irrigation because I don’t have any cash,” he added.

However, Haryana additional director (agriculture) Suresh Gahlawat claimed the slowdown in sowing will not have a major impact on the wheat yield. “A lot depends on the weather in the coming months,” he said.