Kochi: Paddy farmers in Kerala’s rice granary Palakkad district have been successful in experimenting with organic paddy cultivation—their maiden crop has a buyer who has offered them a premium. Around 20 farmers have come together under the banner of the Vadakkencherry Padasekhara Samiti for cultivating paddy on a 50-acre plot in Vadakkencherry panchayat in the district. They have been in paddy cultivation for the last few decades but this season they decided to switch over to organic cultivation, bidding goodbye to chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Harvesting has just begun and the reaping process is fully manual, involving around 25 workers daily. The process is expected to get over next week. The farmers are happy because the yield from an acre is more than four tonnes when the average yield under conventional paddy cultivation has been roughly 3.5 tonnes, says R.N. Ramakrishnan, a farmer.
Ramakrishnan, 58, decided not to pursue a chartered accountant’s career and a job in a public sector bank, but instead opted to go into paddy cultivation and has been busy with the job for the last 25 years. When farmers sold their paddy literally at a throwaway price of Rs420 a quintal two years ago, there was a feeling among several farmers in the group that it was a meaningless effort. However, last year, the farmers sold their crop to a government procurement agency at Rs900 a quintal—the minimum support price fixed by the government.
But the scene has changed dramatically, Ramakrishnan says, adding that the Kerala-basedPoabs Group, which is into multi-crop organic plantation in the district, has offered the growers a price of Rs1,125 per quintal. “Ours is still not fully organic, because we have just applied for certification,” Ramakrishnan says. “The tests will begin and it will take another two years before we get the final certification, that’s when the margin will be nearly 50%.”
The total investment on an acre is around Rs10,000. Then there is the high cost of bio-fertilizers. However, for the next crop, manure to be used would be 25% less. The yield from each acre would get the farmers Rs15,000, which makes the experiment attractive. It is a well integrated farming process because several farmers have their own dairy farms, which means the hay from the farms can be used as fodder for their cattle and dung as manure.
Thomas Jacob, director of Poabs, says his company will encourage more farmers toget into organic paddy cultivation. The process is being piloted in Kuttanad, Kerala’s rice bowl in Alappuzha district,he says.