Drought-hit Karnataka forcing farmers to switch from paddy to ragi
Drought-hit Karnataka forcing farmers to switch from paddy to ragi.
Bengaluru: Following a lukewarm response to its promotional efforts, Karnataka has resorted to more forceful measures to get farmers in the Cauvery command area to switch from cultivating water-intensive crops such as paddy and sugarcane to drought-tolerant millets as part of a plan to stabilize farmers’ incomes and manage the water scarcity.
Staring at its fourth consecutive drought year, the state government has stopped the sale of paddy seeds in some districts, including Mandya, and restricted their availability in Mysuru and Chamrajnagar, hoping to get farmers to switch to ragi and jowar among other coarse grains to mitigate the imminent loss of agricultural activity, keep fodder reserves going and shield farmers’ incomes.
We want them to take up a crop, but not paddy and sugarcane,” Krishna Byre Gowda, Karnataka’s agriculture minister said in an interview last week.
The limited availability of paddy seeds through the government and advisories against sowing paddy do not necessarily prevent the farmer who can get the seeds from private companies or his peers.
And farmers in the Cauvery command area, the heartland of farmer agitations in Karnataka, are not happy with the government regulating the release of water to canals.
The state says it will give Rs2,300 per quintal, but it costs more to cultivate it,” Shantakumar said.
The state government, for a few years now, have assured ragi buyback at prices higher than that of rice, but have still not made it part of the public distribution system (PDS).
The state government has invested over Rs150 crore in seed subsidies, buybacks and promotions to package ragi as not just a drought resistant crop helping farmers but also a nutritional crop.
But the total cultivated area of ragi has come down over the years—from about 787,000 hectares in 2010-11 to 677,000 ha in 2015-16.