While the lack of rain has dashed all hopes of maize growers in Dindigul district, poor procurement price has affected their counterparts elsewhere in the country.
Standing crops in more than 10,000 hectares in Dindigul district have suffered extensive damage. Maize growers who have managed to protect the standing crop till harvesting with alternative irrigation sources too are not happy as procurement price is far below the MSP announced by the Central Government for this Kharif season. A similar trend prevails in all major maize producing centres in the country, especially in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Dindigul district is one of the major maize bowls in Tamil Nadu. When the State Government encouraged farmers to shift to other crops, particularly maize, from paddy in order to reduce reliance on water consuming crops, many farmers in rain-fed areas in the district shifted to maize.
As the demand for maize from the poultry and dairy industry grew, the area under maize cultivation in the district increased to 48,000 hectares of which more than 25,000 hectares was rain-fed. Later, Perambalur, Ariyalur, Cuddalore and Tirupur too became major maize growing belts in the State. Now, the State’s contribution to the national maize yield is 7.25 per cent.
Today, those who supported government policies struggle for survival. Standing maize crop in more than 10,000 hectares has started to wilt owing to the absence of rain. Most of the lands in Palani block depend on rainfall for irrigation.
One shower is needed to save the 55-day old maize crop. But rainfall has been almost nil in August and September. At this stage, the height of the crop should be four feet. But it is just 2.5 feet. Mild shower in September would have saved crops and helped farmers harvest four bags of maize. (Normally, they harvest 20 bags). That too is not possible now as there is no rain till now. Standing crops have wilted.
In rain-fed areas, farmers can raise only one crop in a year. They will receive nothing from the field this year. They continue to suffer losses for two years in a row. Last year, rainfall was good. But they had to confront with Fall Army Worm that destroyed maize farms. Somehow, they managed to raise the crop this season with their meagre savings. Nature deceived them this year. Lack of rain has not only affected plant growth, development and yield but also destroyed their livelihood.
At the same time, maize growers, who have managed to harvest maize in other parts of the country, too are not happy owing to poor procurement price.
Even as the Central Government fixed MSP at Rs.1,850 per quintal for maize for this Kharif season, it was procured far below the MSP in September across the country.
In Haryana, maize was procured at Rs.800 per quintal and at Rs.500 per quintal in Punjab, Rs.1200 in Rajasthan, Rs.1,500 in AP, Rs.1,250 in Bihar, Rs.1,320 in Gujarat and Rs.1,450 in West Bengal. Not even a single State procured maize at MSP.
The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices has calculated that the cost of growing one quintal maize cost will be around Rs.1,213. Based on its recommendations, the Centre has fixed MSP at Rs.1850 for maize to enable farmers to get 50 per cent of their investment as profit. But farmers are not able to recover input costs even owing to poor procurement price offered by States.
While maize growers across the country fight for a reasonable and remunerative price for their produce, the Centre has decided to import 50 lakh quintals of maize. Farmers fear that import would push down prices in the domestic market further.
Maize growers in Palani have appealed to the government to assess the damage and extend financial assistance. Telangana farmers have appeal to the State Government to procure maize and sell it to the poultry industry. The poultry industry, a major consumer of maize, is paralysed owing to lockdown. Even the Centre-sponsored 10 per cent subsidy on MSP to poultry farmers to boost maize sales has not served the purpose.
The government must assess the crop damage immediately and provide financial assistance to growers for survival. As a long-term measure, it should consider maize as an essential commodity. Merely increasing production and area under cultivation will not suffice. The government should enhance storage and procurement facilities to meet the growing demand for maize in India and abroad in future, farmers demand.