By admin       2017-11-13

Bhandara: At Kacharkheda village, a despondent Dinesh Bhoyar willingly torches a small heap of paddy crop and poses for a photo. He is waiting for the talati (revenue officer), who is touring the area, to have a look at it before destroying it completely. It makes no sense for Bhoyar to use a harvester as the grain output would be less. His choices are to either burn it down completely or cut it for feeding the cattle. There are reports of farmers burning the standing crop damaged severely due to pest attack in parts of Bhandara as well as the neighbouring district of Chandrapur. Late rains had delayed sowing but paddy farmers managed the crop with water from irrigation channels. But the pest attack in the last 15 days has left them staring at a colossal loss. It's unprecedented, according to the farmers TOI spoke to. If cotton is the main crop in Yavatmal and other parts of Vidarbha, Bhandara-Chandrapur-Gadchiroli is the rice bowl of the region. And unlike farmers in other parts of the region who go in for mixed crops, their counterparts in these three areas solely depend on rice. The pests that have attacked paddy — white fly and sucking pests — are the same that hit the cotton crop in Yavatmal and other parts forcing farmers to go in for over-usage of pesticide. While it resulted in 43 deaths totally in Vidarbha, no paddy farmer has died even though he too has been spraying pesticide on the crop. Sources in the government machinery admit to the problem in paddy crops. "Even if their claims are taken on a conservative basis, a number of farmers would only be able to break even. Under such circumstances, they may not be able to repay the loans," said a government source. According to Rilesh Hazare, who owns a 5-acre farm at Karachkheda, "The tide turned just a couple of weeks ago with the pest attack. It has dashed all our hopes. As the pests spread very fast, by the time the entire field is harvested the losses would only go up. I expect only half of last year's yield." The district administration has ordered an on-ground survey to assess the losses. The farmers say there was no advisory from the agriculture department on an impending pest attack. "All of us used different pesticides given by the dealer but nothing has helped. We only identify the pesticides by the colour of containers and do not remember the names," said Mahadev Bendewar who has grown paddy in six acres of land. A senior officer at the district agriculture office, however, said an advisory was sent on October 24. Kacharkheda sarpanch Krushna Kervat says in nearly 35% of the paddy fields in the village the crop may have to "slashed for fodder or just burnt down". RM Bhure, the talati who is inspecting the field here, agrees with his observation. A fall in paddy yield is likely to make the grain costlier for consumers. However, for the farmer there is no change as he continues to get Rs1,800 a quintal (minimum support price) at government procurement centres. Locals say with best of the yield, a farmer tilling a 5 acre paddy farm is left with a profit Rs75,000 which has to last him the entire year. Paddy is grown in 1,54,341, hectares of farmland in Bhandara. Tur, which is the second major crop, is grown in 11,200 hectares which is less than 10% of area under paddy, according to data with the agriculture department. Farm activist Govind Bhendarkar says some farmers in Nagbhid and Brahmapuri talukas of Chandrapur district too have burnt down their paddy crop. A member of the Vidarbha Rajya Andolan Samiti, he resides in Nagbhid. "There are reports of losses due to pest attack in Gondia too," he said. Over 20 kms from Karachkheda, at Salebhata village, farmers say the paddy growing season started on a damp note itself. "Due to a dry spell as much as 35% of farmers in our village did not even plant the paddy shoots. You can see large patches of empty farms," says Vinesh Patle. Former Salebhata sarpanch Sanajeev Rahangdale nods in agreement. On some farms the crop has not been harvested at all as the pest attack has hardly left anything to be salvaged. "Some farmers did not burn down the crop as the stalk can be used for fodder," said Dilip Rahangdale who does not expect more than 5 quintals from the 5-acre farm the family owns as against a yield of 10-15 in a normal year. Even Patle did not harvest the crop in 1.5 acres of his farm. The paddy crop on the land, looks like dry grass. Next to it is tur (pulses) on a small patch. "Even tur is failing as the flowers have started withering away. I have no other source of income than farming," he says. Conditions in insurance scheme may deny farmer relief Bhandara: Farmers are banking on the Prime Minister's crop insurance scheme for some relief but are grappling to understand the procedure which has to be done online. Moreover, a look at the policy conditions indicate that filing for a claim may not be easy. The compensation is available due to crop losses under five conditions, which mainly covers reasons like unseasonal rains, hail storm or dry spell. If the output is less than the threshold yield as mentioned in the policy document, the farmers are compensated to the tune of the shortfall. However, there is a catch. The threshold yield fixed for Bhandara is less than the actual output seen in the last five years. According to the insurance scheme, the threshold yield is not more than 1400 kgs or 14 quintals a hectare in this district. In some pockets, it is also as low as 10 quintals. But data gathered by agriculture department shows that there has been an average yield of 18 kgs a hectare in the district during the last five years. The losses are compensated only if the actual yield is below the threshold limit set in the policy. There are chances that the yield may fall it may be still within the 10 to 14 quintal a hectare mark at many places. This would deny the compensation. "Sources say ideally the limit should be set at 18 quintals which is the realistic figure. Maybe the old data was used for fixing the insurance," criterion said a source. Also, the shortfall has to be registered for an entire block — a group of 20 to 25 villages. "The output cannot be expected to be the same in such a large area." a source said.

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