Onam is celebrated in the “Chingam” month of the Malayalam calendar. This month is one of happiness because it’s in the month of harvesting. After a lot of hard work, this month brings with it all the happiness. Chingam 1 is the New Year day in Malayalam calendar. That day is also the “karshaka dinam – Farmer’s Day”. It has been so for around 6-8 years. That day, in all offices related to agriculture, special programs will be conducted. This year I got a chance to attend one such a meeting near my house. Some prominent farmers in the neighborhood were honoured. Then there was a discussion about the problems faced by kerala paddy farmers. Let me mention some of them here.
1. The price the farmers get for the products they grow is very low. Farmer doesn’t get a direct market. Their products go through many hands before reaching the consumer. These middle men get most of the profit. The fluctuating price is also a cause of a great concern. There was a time when Vanilla had very high demand and price. Many farmers seeing this opportunity invested heavily in it. By the time they were ready for selling, the prices came back to normal. Such incidents are common in our market. A step the govt. can take in this regard would be to fix a support price for all agricultural products.
2. The labour cost has gone very high. In many other states like Tamil Nadu, this cost is very less. So the cost of cultivation increases drastically here. The main reason for this has to be the high literacy level. Educated people always want white-collar jobs. Even if they don’t get any, they are very reluctant to go for physical labour. And the few that does come demand too much money.
3. Usage of machines can solve the above problem. But suitable machines are not available. And those available are not used properly. Political reasons are a main cause for this. Few months back, in Alapuzha, due to lack of labour the farmers decided to use machines for harvesting. But a political party started a strike there telling introduction of machines are going to increase unemployment. From a party who fought against computerization, we shouldn’t even hope for anything better. And the net results were that the entire crop was wasted in the rain because they were not harvested at time.
4. Most farmers own small area of land which makes mechanization difficult. It is not economically viable to introduce machines for a small area. Group farming can help. If many farmers in the locality unite, then mechanization is possible.
5. Weather is also a big problem. It is getting unpredictable. Earlier there was a pattern for weather. Now it is not so. Unexpected rain and drought cause lots of damage to the crops. There are no solutions for this as weather is uncontrollable. Only step that can be taken is to provide proper insurance for all crops.
6. There is a common notion, that agriculture is profitless. But its not so. Agriculture is profitable. But the magnitude may no be large. There is no chance for huge profits here. A continuous moderate profit can be made by this. So it should be done as a secondary profession by all who can do it. Only this can bring again the green revolution.
You all might be thinking what the use of this article is. For this my answer would be that each and every one of you can be a farmer. There is vast possibility here. Even if you don’t have cultivable area or if you live in a flat, still there are things you can do. Even if it may not be profitable, it can still be a good hobby. Moreover you get good quality products without any pesticides, fertilizers etc. Kitchen garden and farming in the terrace area are growing in popularity. From my experiences I can tell that they have been very useful. Let’s all come together and help our state overcome the overdependence on other states for our food.
Let’s never be in a situation to sent/receive any SMS like the one I got yesterday, which was like this.
“Onam again… Maveli from pathalam.. Rice, vegetables, flowers, liquor all from Tamil Nadu.. And the celebrations in Kerala. Happy Onam….”