Farmers with small landholdings are trying their best to improve their fortunes by taking agriculture land on annual lease, mostly from big farmers, but the profit is mostly negligible.
"Most farmers who take land on lease have almost sold their own land as they were unable to meet rising input costs," said Charanjeet Singh, a farmer from Kothe Ber Wala village of the district.
But taking land on annual contracts is not much profitable for them, rather it is just a matter of prestige for the farming community as they do not like to work as dailywagers while there are no other jobs for the unskilled farming community.
"There is not much profit in taking land on lease as financial calculations show that profit per acre is R5,000 depending on the crop yield, weather and rainfall. Now even straw rates are also taken into consideration while taking land on lease," says Sukha, a farmer from Niamiwala village.
"But it is essential to keep their households running as farmers can take some loans on the basis of it, use their manpower and farm machinery," he adds.
"In our village, some people even take up to 100 acres land on lease. But all the money is used to make down payments. They are allegedly encouraged and financed by the commission agents as the latter sell the produce in their own name and save tax because the agriculture income is not taxable," claiemed Jagmeet Singh, a farmer from Panjgrain Kalan village.
The higher contract rates squeeze nearly all the profit. "In my village, Kothe Bookan Singh Nagar, the rates of annual contracts are from R40,000 to R44,500 per acre and the rising prices of fuel, farm machinery, labour and harvesting leave little profit for farmers. Above all, there always a risk of uncertain weather, besides yield and procurement issues," says Gurmeet Singh Mann, a farmer.
"Many big farmers mostly try to move to cities. They do not want to engage their children in agriculture and want jobs for them. They put up their land on annual lease and get good profit comfortably. However, small farmers do not have many options and they take land on lease to engage themselves in some work," says Gurmeet Singh, a resident of Duareana village.
"In my village, bad subsoil water keeps the annual contract rates under check and this year the rate per acre is R35,000," he says.
There are some farmers who have small landholding but give it on lease instead of letting it remain fallow. "I only keep 1.5 acre land with myself to grow some fodder and cotton and give the remaining 4.5 acre on annual lease," says Jagseer Singh, a youth from Niamiwala village.
"Hiring land on annual lease is one of the few options before farmers with small landholdings. The small farmers have also tried their luck in allied occupations such as dairy farming, poultry, etc., but they mostly failed. They cannot work as dailywagers due to a social "stigma". There is little industrialisation in the state, which cannot absorb the small farming community," says Balwinder Singh Aulakh, president of Lok Chetna Manch, Aulakh.