Stubble: Rent of balers up in Punjab, farmers have no one for help
At a time when the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has banned stubble burning to check air pollution, rent of balers — a machine used to compress crop residue into compact bales — has increased in several districts of Punjab.
Earlier, baler-owners used to provide their services free of cost and would earn by selling bales of crop residue to nearby factories, mainly biomass plants. However, this year, they are charging farmers anything between Rs 1,000-1,500 per acre.
This correspondent has learnt that baler-owners are sending their machines to Haryana where farmers are paying them more than Rs 1,200 per acre.
Labh Singh, a baler-owner, said he purchased the machine for Rs 13 lakh after the NGT banned stubble burning. “It is a costly machine,” he said.
The machine takes an hour to make bales out of the straw spread over an acre of land, which generally produces 12-15 quintal of bales.
Factories buy the bales at Rs 120-130 per quintal.
Ram Singh Bhainibhaga, president Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan), Mansa, said, “Baler-owners are charging us Rs 1,000-1,500 per acre and they also earn by selling it to biomass plants. The government is not serious in solving the problem.”
Balraj Singh, another baler owner, said, “The cost of diesel has increased as compared to the previous year and now factories are not easily buying the residue. They are also paying lesser this year on the pretext of larger moisture. This affects our earning.”
Meanwhile, most cooperative societies in the region do not have balers. In Muktsar district, there are 144 cooperative societies. However, none of them have a baler.
Jasbir Singh, assistant registrar of cooperative societies, Muktsar, said, “There are 144 societies in Muktsar but we don’t have balers because it is very costly and we can’t afford them. Furthermore, they have seasonal usage.”
Guranditta Singh, a farmer, said, “We don’t have any alternative but to burn stubble. Farmers can’t afford the rent of a baler. The government should provide us financial help.”