Thursday, August 18, 2016

Deficient monsoon may force farmers to go for pulses, millets

COIMBATORE: Pulse and millet production in the district may increase next year, if the North-East monsoon also fails like the South-West monsoon. The district has received only 36% of the rainfall expected during the SW monsoon, forcing farmers to start considering short-term rainfed crops if the NE monsoon also fails. However, the situation might be advantageous, considering the skyrocketing pulse prices.

The district has received only 58mm of rain, against the expected 160mm since June. Though September is when a majority of the rainfall is from the SW monsoon, hopes of reaching the expected rainfall are low.

"We had expected the rainfall to fall short by about 19% compared to the 210mm received last year, but this deficit is more than expected," admitted the director of the Agro Climate Research Station at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Dr S Paneerselvam.

With ground water levels and borewells touching an alarming low level, farmers cultivating traditional crops like paddy, banana and sugarcane have now begun looking for other options. "Usually, when the rainfall is poor, the NE monsoon has not been much better," said an organic farmer based in Arasur, G Ramasamy.

"So if that is also deficit, all our banana plantations will dry up by next May. Many of us have seriously been thinking about switching to maize or pulses, considering the good prices we are likely to get," he said.

Though pulses are cultivated across 12,000 hectares in the district, a majority of farmers new to the crop hesitate to try it because of a relatively low yield. Pulses traditionally give between 1 to 1.25 tonnes per hectare. However, sky rocketing prices of the crop is making many paddy, sugarcane and banana farmers to consider switching.

While tur dal is retailing for 130 per kg, whole sale cost of gram dal is 150 per kg. The high prices are because of the drought and low yield across the 2 lakh hectars of pulses cultivated in Karnataka over the past two years.

However, with many farmers in Maharashtra now beginning to get into or increase their pulse cultivation, Coimbatore farmers are closely following the trend. "If we get a good price like 70 to 90 per kg, we will make good profit. Besides, they are usually 120 day crops which don't require that much water," said K Marappan, another farmer in Arasur.

Source: Times of India

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