In the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak and a nationwide lockdown, Telangana is gearing up for a bumper paddy harvest. As the unprecedented lockdown led to non-availability of agricultural labourers, the state opted for complete mechanization of the paddy harvest.
For this, the government will employ nearly 14,900 harvesters across the state. These will be “crowdsourced from the civil society”, said a top official in the Department of Agriculture and Co-operation.
In Telangana, paddy was cultivated in 39 lakh acres during the current Rabi season, compared to 17 lakh acres last season, and the government expects a record production of one crore metric tonnes of paddy. The weeks between March and May-end is the peak harvesting period for the paddy crop in the state.
To console the farmers who are already panicky, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, during multiple press conferences, has assured them that the government will procure every grain of paddy at a minimum support price(MSP) through village procurement centers. He announced that the state government will spend nearly Rs 30,000 crore to procure about 1.05 crore tonnes of paddy. The question was who will harvest the paddy. On Sunday, the government informed that mechanization of paddy harvesting is the only way to ensure the timely harvest of produce.
The department of agriculture and co-operation, in a note, said that the state owns over 14,095 harvesters and another 753 harvesters were hired from other states, mainly Tamil Nadu, and are already available in Telangana. In all 14,848 harvesters are already readily available in the state, it said.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, B Janardhan Reddy, Principal Secretary to Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, said that the state had initially identified 5000 harvesters available in the state but it would have taken 3 months to harvest 39 lakh acres.
“The availability of agricultural laborers has been on a decline year-after-after. A market for machines in such a scenario was already being explored by unemployed youths, entrepreneurs, bankers, businessmen, etc. Though these harvesters are expensive, it can be used for all crops and that’s the future,” said Reddy.
According to him, what 30 laborers can do per-acre per-day can be done using a machine in an hour. “Agriculture labor costs around Rs 5,000 per acre and the machine would cost only half of it, about Rs 2,500 to Rs 2,800 per acre,” he added.
Having realised that the availability of machines was no issue, the government has addressed the operational issues by converging departments of agriculture, police, and manufacturers.
In this regard, the government has addressed a communication to all major companies to set up round-the-clock call centers and requested their cooperation in immediate servicing and supply of spare parts of these machines in case of breakdowns. All the companies have been requested to set up mobile servicing centers with technical persons to attend the breakdowns in no time. Required passes are being arranged to all the technicians, skilled laborers, drivers and other staff involved in the harvesting operations for movement within the districts and also inter-district movement said the note.
Expecting the bumper paddy crop, the CM had earlier announced that classrooms in schools and junior colleges will be used for temporarily stocking paddy and other agriculture produce if needed.
Using farm equipment, the harvest is expected to be completed in 50 to 60 days.
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