Like thousands of other farmers in Telangana, Vilas Bhukya was in a dilemma — whether or not to cultivate paddy . And this was for a reason — with the Union Government making it clear that it is not going to buy any parboiled rice this rabi season, the State Government asked its farmers to shun paddy.
But Vilas and thousands of his peers decided to go ahead with paddy, with a difference. He distributed his five-acre farm equally between fine varieties and varieties suited for parboiled rice. As a result, the area under paddy in the State, which was to be cut down to 15-20 lakh acres in the season, has crossed the 30-lakh acre mark, surprising many.
The Centre said it would not be able to procure parboiled rice during the rabi season is it has stocks for nearly 3-4 years. Also, Telangana does not consume parboiled rice and States consuming the variety have their own arrangements.
On the other hand, farmers in the State are converting paddy to parboiled rice as milling it to white rice results in a higher percentage of broken. This is because the grain is exposed to very high temperatures during March-April. One way of finding a solution to this problem is to modernise rice bills, which will result in the State having to meet the expenses. All these have led to controversies and Centre-State dispute.
Though initially there were signs of a significant drop in sowing, the area under paddy has equalled the normal area under the crop. According to the latest figures, paddy has been sown on 31 lakh acres, which is normal for the season. The area is expected to grow a little further before the sowing season ends in the next few days.
Though this is 36 per cent less than last year’s acreage of 49 lakh acres, the extent of paddy sowings is higher than the State’s target, which was to reduce the paddy area to about 20 lakh acres. Telangana Rythu Sangham leader S Malla Reddy had asserted that the farmers would not cut down the area under paddy despite the government’s warning. “There is a scope for procurement considering the size of the country and opportunities for exports,” he said.
Interestingly, about one-third of the 31 lakh acres is covered by fine varieties, which face no issues. While asking the farmers to shun paddy in the rabi season, the State Government had asked them to grow paddy only if they had tie-ups with millers.
Asked why farmers went ahead and planted paddy, T Devender Reddy, President of South India Millers Associations, said paddy was always a safe bet for farmers. “It’s the only crop that provides an assured income. This must be one reason for them to go with paddy,” he said.
He, however, suggested farmers should go for varieties that have demand in the market. “The dependence on the government procurement should go,” he said.
Another reason is that it is not very easy for a paddy farmer to shift to other crops. “The fields prepared for paddy are not suitable immediately for other crops. Restoration will take 2-3 years,” an agricultural scientist said.
February 17, 2022