This year, there won’t be too many hurda parties on the outskirts of Pune, as parts of the district reel under the aftermath of a drought. Hurda parties are events held in December and January to highlight the budding crop of jowar.
Hurda, the roasted grain of budding jowar, is considered a delicacy and is available only in the first and last months of the year. Through hurda parties, nearly 40 agri-tourism operators based in Pune and Ahmednagar offer visitors a glimpse of rural life, with items such as hurda meals and bullock cart rides on the itinerary.
While a kg of hurda, sufficient to feed five to six people, cost Rs 175 last year, this year, when the drought has hit various types of agricultural produce, the price has crossed Rs 400.
Only 10 or 12 agritourism organisers will hold such parties this year, said Pandurang Taware, founder-president of Agri-Tourism Development Corporation. “Hurda or the budding jowar has become too costly… ,” he said. “Usually, for such parties, the whole day package per person costs Rs 700-750, so the increase in the cost of hurda makes such parties nonviable,” said Taware.
As farmers struggle with severe moisture stress this winter, the production of jowar, a major rabi crop, has been hit as well. The total area of cultivation of jowar in the state — 16.96 lakh hectares in the last rabi season and 11.03 lakh hectares this season — reveals the falling levels of production. The districts of Pune, Solapur, Ahmednagar and Satara are the major jowar-growing regions in the state.
Over the last few years, agri-tourism has become an alternative source of income for farms, which offer residents of urban areas a slice of ‘rural lifestyle’ through day-long activities and local meals. As the drought alters the precarious balance in the agricultural sector, it has also made a dent in agri-tourism, said Taware.
“Farms located in Indapur, Baramati, parts of Solapur and the drought-affected parts of Ahmednagar are facing moisture stress, and this will affect their activities,” he said. Many of the farms are now relying on water tankers to run their activities, said Taware.