A few years ago,Ravinder Singh Thiara was planning to quit kinnow farming because of the high expenditure on the machinery required for it,costly insecticides and pesticides,and lack of technical knowledge. But this farmer of Sikri village in Hoshiarpur district is now growing the citrus fruit on 12 acres of land,and is satisfied with the production both in terms of quantity and quality.
Thiara gives all the credit to the Citrus Estate,Bhunga,which gave him the machinery,expert advice,motivation and other services. Ravinder says taking the machinery on rent proves to be a huge benefit to small farmers like him,who have to otherwise take huge loans to purchase these.
I was finding it hard to survive on the earnings from my seven-acre kinnow farm because of the high production cost. I could not afford to raise loans to purchase the machinery. But now I save a good amount as I get each and every help required for the production from Citrus Estate,Bhunga,on a very nominal rent, says Gurnam Singh,a farmer of Goraya village in Hoshiarpur.
The charges for the latest machinery are around half the market price,adds Gurbachan Singh of Dolowal.
There are more than 900 such farmers who have benefited from the membership of Bhunga Citrus Estate alone,while there are a total of five such estates in Punjab. The other four are in Abohar and Tahliwala Jattan (Ferozepur district),Badal (Muktsar) and Hoshiarpur,which have collectively over 5,000 members. From tractors,rotavators and automatic power sprayers to tillers,ridges and hydraulic pruners that cost lakhs,the estates provide everything at affordable prices.
The costs of machinery,pesticides and fertilisers are too much for small farmers,but not willing to stay behind in the competition,they would still purchase these by raising huge loans, says Punjab State Nodal officer (Citrus) and Deputy Director,Horticulture,Dr Gurkanwal Singh. He says the objective of the citrus estates is to help small and marginal farmers earn well from small landholdings without spending much on the production cost. The citrus estates provide all type of machinery on no-profit-no-loss basis.
This prevents them from buying their own equipment and thus they dont need to take agriculture loans,which are a major factor behind farmer debts and suicides here,says Dr Gurkanwal.
At citrus estates,he adds,they want to provide all infrastructural facilities under one roof to obtain more productivity and good quality of produce,so the horticulturists are able to face the challenges of the changing scenario.
Every estate has been registering kinnow growers at a fast pace and also adding latest equipment. The Bhunga estate has many firsts to its credit as it has the largest number of small farmers as its member and latest machinery,including stainless kinnow grading and waxing machine and imported pruner and dragon sprayer. It is also the only estate to open a store to provide best quality insecticides at a low cost.
The estate covers 380 villages and 1,750 of the total 3,600 hectares area under kinnow in Hoshiarpur district. And out of the 1,600 kinnow growers,around 950 are registered with this estate,with the figure rising every month, says Paramjit Singh Sooch,a farmer and member of the Executive Committee of Bhunga Citrus Estate.
And small farmers are not the only beneficiaries. Big farmers,too,are using the services of the estate,says Harjinder Singh Dhillon,another member of the committee.
I had brought 37 acres of my total 62 acres under the citrus estate. I am planning to bring additional 25 acres under it soon because my production cost has now come down to half,compared to the previous years. The continuous visits and expert technical advice have improved the quality of the fruit and significantly increased its productivity, says Ramanjit Singh Sandhu of Kantian village.