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Harvesters rule wheat season but labour back in demand for paddy

On Punjab’s farmlands,the man-machine contest has reached tipping point.

Written by Raakhi Jagga | Ludhiana |
April 29, 2011 1:28:44 am

On Punjab’s farmlands,the man-machine contest has reached tipping point. While at present machines have the upper hand — with most of the wheat harvesting being done with combine harvesters — for the upcoming paddy season farm labour is much in demand,and landowners have already reserved scarce hands with generous advances and other allurements.

“Harvesting by combines is being followed for the past 3-4 years looking at the increasing labour shortage,but for paddy transplantation,the transplanters (machines) have not yet given good results. So we are thinking of switching back to manual transplantation in paddy season,” said Inderjit Dhingra,Chairman,Improvement Trust Fazilka and a progressive farmer of this area.

Dhingra added,“Though manual harvesting of wheat gives us more straw that can be used as fodder for cattle,more than 80 per cent of farmers switched to combine harvesting because of bad weather and extensive labour shortage. Something is better than nothing.”

Darshan Singh Koohli,General Secretary of Bharti Kisan Union,added,“The workers have demanded Rs 3,000 per acre this season as compared to Rs 2,200 per acre last season,while the rate for harvesting with combines is constant for the past many years at Rs 800 per acre. But the plus point with manual harvesting is,we get a good quantity of straw which is sold at around Rs 2,500 per tonne to dairy farmers. However,the straw yield is bare minimum when harvesting with combines and the quality is also poor. But we have to balance out somewhere.”

Koohli added,“According to the reports received from various areas of the state,combine harvesting was popular this season because of sudden rainfall and farmers never wanted to take risks. Fodder for cattle will be short even this season because straw output will be nearly half as compared to previous years.”

Farmers meanwhile admitted that they are making themselves ready for the coming paddy transplantation and at times,despite advances,labour does not turn up. Gurpreet Singh,another farmer in Fazilka,added,“We have to take care of the workers like our esteemed guests. Earlier,they used to stay in the tubewell rooms,but now they want fan,desert cooler and other facilities in the room apart from free meals,including meat,and free mobile phones as well.”

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