The meteorological (Met) department's prediction of below-average rainfall this year between June and September has raised the concern among paddy growers in the state, who are already reeling under crop losses due to the unseasonal rainfall, which has damaged the rabi crops.
The prediction of poor rainfall will not only affect the farmers, but also rice production in the state, as according to the figures given by the state agriculture department, the land under paddy have fallen to 11.50 lakh hectares this year as compared to last year's 12.28 lakh hectares.
Alternatives not remunerative
The state government has announced several steps to break the wheat-paddy cycle, but the farmers are not ready to adopt the alternate crops as they complain that the other crops would not provide them remunerative prices.
"Only bajra and maize are the alternatives of paddy. Though the government has announced minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 1,280 for bajra, but they do not procure the same, and the farmers have to thus sell it to private traders at Rs 800-900 per quintal," said Satyawrat Singh, a farmer from Gohana.
"Per acre production of bajra is around 7-9 quintals and a farmer gets only Rs 6,000 to Rs 8,000 per acre, besides the production cost of Rs 4,000 to 5,000 per acre," he added.
Paddy is status-symbol
About 60% of land in Rohtak, Jind, Jhajjar, Sonepat, Hisar and parts of Kaithal and Sirsa is used for paddy cultivation, which depends on rainfall. The farmers say that they cannot leave their fields empty so that they can prevent their families from social-shame.
Devender Sharma of Ladaut village in Rohtak said that the farmer would grow paddy on their lands at any cost as they believe that leaving their fields barren was a shameful act. He added, "The farmers also hire fields at higher rates of interest, without thinking about the weather conditions. They are of the opinion that they have to grow crops at any cost in order to earn profits."
Basmati growers in a fix
Steep fall in the prices of basmati (long grain varieties) has become a matter of concern for the basmati growers in the state.
Despite, the transporters not lifting the last year's stock, which is now being sold at Rs 1,800-2,000 per quintal, this year too, the farmers are reluctant to sow basmati.
"Last year, there was surplus basmati varities, but it failed to fetch remunerative prices and farmers had to dispose it off below Rs 2,200 per quintal," said another farmer Narender. He added that the production cost of basamti varieties was higher than the hybrid and parmal rice."
The farmers have also demanded the government to improve electricity supply, which is important during paddy transplantation.
Farmers not interested in direct seeding method
The government has also asked the district administration to promote direct seeding method of paddy, which will save 20-25% of water and lower the electricity consumption by 20-30%. The farmers, however, have not shown interest in the new technique.