Futile advice and no seeds: the agricultural fair inaugurated here on Friday only disappointed the farmers.
Mantar Singh Brar, chief parliamentary secretary for panchayats and rural development, inaugurated the fair on the premises of the district agriculture department, and Raminder Singh, commissioner of Faridkot division, was special guest. The farmer participation was huge. Expecting to find new subsidised seeds of wheat, barseem (fodder crop), grams and mustard at the event, they had to return empty handed.
"I had come looking for improved seeds for the new-season crop such as wheat, vegetables, and fodder but the department had nothing to offer," said Harjinder Singh, a farmer from Niamiwala village. "The advice from university experts is impractical, for the conditions are different in the field. Experts tell you to divide an acre of farm into eight parts to save water but how is it possible."
'Late varieties' has new meaning
Farmers said they never received the seeds for main crop in time. Most of the farmers looking for improved seeds have to make arrangements before harvesting paddy. There is always uncertainty over quality, even if the delivery is in time. Last year, the stock of subsidised seeds had reached farmers late, by which time, most of them had bought seeds from private producers.
Not happy with Happy Seeder
Experts also forbid burn paddy straw but don't give farmers a viable alternative. Happy seeder, a machine that can sow wheat directly after paddy is cut, is neither available easily nor much popular. The increase of Rs. 5 a litre in the price of diesel will also compel farmers to burn paddy straw instead of burning fuel to run a farm machine.
Not practicing what they preach
"At the last Kisan Mela (agricultural fair), I had asked the experts of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) to practice what they preach," said Deputy Singh of Nathewala, farm manager of a trust. "The university preaches the directing sowing of rice and wheat with the help of happy seeder and not burn the residue, but on its 1,200-acres Raja Harinder Singh seed farm at Bir Sikhan Wala village, it doesn't implement these methods."
The much-talked-about crop diversification also has few takers, as the government has failed to give farmers alternative. The paddy-wheat crop cycle is popular because of assured purchase for minimum support price (MSP). At Kisan Melas, the equipment and seeds promoted are seldom available and often too costly. Most of the visiting farmers have money to buy only booklets and a small amount of seeds.
"I want the state agriculture department to provide us with subsidised seeds so that we can deliver these to farmers," said chief agricultural officer Kaur Singh Dhillon. "We have given them enough advice, demonstrations and literature. We are doing our best."