By Virendra Singh
Rabkavi Banhatti, 20 April 2019.
Rabkavi Banhatti is a village of Jamkhandi Taluk in Bagalkot District where two things are very common to see. Turmeric and sugarcane are two main source of income of farmers and there is an increase in price of turmeric and decrease in the production. Here, farmers grow sugarcane, maize, wheat and turmeric is the cash crop of here. Farmers who take turmeric crop in more than four – five acres are in good profit and those own cultivate in less than four acres face problems sometimes. Large land owning farmers can tackle the problem as they cultivate more and get a good profit out of it. Small farmers are in loss as they grow in limited area like one to two acres. Initially, they have to invest Rs. 60,000 to 70,000 for seeds, fertilisers, ploughing and pesticides.
Honappa Siddappa Beradi, (age 42), a farmer who is in turmeric farming from last eight years has seen all the ups and downs. He lives with his brother and 16 other family members. He has a total six-acre farming area which is divided between him and his brother, he owns three acres. Almost 10 years back he was farming sugarcane but as he noticed that more farmers were shifting towards turmeric, he also did the same. Initially, when he started turmeric farming the yield was 20 to 25 quintal per acre. From the last five years the production has been decreased by five quintals per acre and came down to 15 to 20 quintals. Earlier when he started turmeric farming, the price was in between 3,500 to 4,000 per quintal which has risen to 7,000 per quintal now. Five years back labour cost was Rs. 70 to 90 for women and Rs. 200 to Rs. 220 for a man which is now Rs. 170 and Rs. 350.
Rise in labour cost is because of the migration as they go to other cities to find work. Here, farmers need labourers just at the time of digging out the turmeric and while sowing the turmeric. It takes seven months for one cycle of turmeric cultivation. Honappa spends Rs. 50,000 to 60,000 thousand in fertilisers, seeds, pesticides and labour cost in one acre. While looking at the profit count after excluding the investment his profit margin was almost Rs. 90,000 to Rs. 1 lakh. Now, he gets 70 to 75 thousand rupees profit apart from all the inputs. He says,’’ it was a time when few farmers were taking this crop and the labour charges were also less. With the increase in cost of inputs and continue farming, farmers are facing the problem of land fertility. Farmers do not use organic manure and over usage of chemical fertilizers has decreased the yield. There are two varieties of turmeric, Kadpa and Selum. Honappa grows Selum because the price of Selum is more compared to Kadpa due to its size and quality. The interesting fact is that the yield of Kadpa turmeric is five quintals more in one acre but the price is low because of which farmers grow Selum. He gets 25 per cent subsidy in fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides from co-operative society. The seed of turmeric is not available there so he buys from the local market. Many farmers like him face the problem of selling the turmeric. Earlier they were selling it in the local market of Mahalingpur for some years but that market got collapsed. Now, they have to go to Sangli which is in Maharashtra, 100 kilometres from Rabkavi. For the transportation, they have to spend Rs. 50 for every 70 Kg. of the produce and sometimes it also rise depending upon the demand for transportation. Honappa says, production has reduced but turmeric farming is common here because of suitable climate, availability of water and black soil favours it. He counters the problem of insects which starts eating the turmeric from the root and makes it hollow from inside. Root knot is a worm which feeds on roots and causes stunting of the plant. It causes rotting of roots. To tackle this, he sprays a solution thrice during one cycle of yield and it costs him around Rs. 6,000. Productivity is low because of excess use of fertilizers and insecticides as Selum variety need more care and he doesn’t have an option other than using it to maintain the yield.
Shivgund Allappa Hanumanwar, another farmer who doesn’t get much profit now from turmeric farming which he was getting three years back. Earlier, turmeric was the cash crop for him but as an average, from last five years, he stopped cultivating turmeric. There was a time when he was growing turmeric in four acres and was getting a good yield out of it. Almost 20 to 22 quintal per acre was the yield with a price of Rs. 8,000 to 9,000 per quintal. But now it has been decreased to five quintals per acre.
Shivputrappa Basappa Hugar (age 80) said that from last 60 years he is doing farming and now he can’t do with his own. He is alone in his home with no siblings except his wife but his turmeric farming is in continuation. He hires labourers and pays them because he is living with his wife. He doesn’t have any children. Earlier, his main crop was sugarcane but then he also started turmeric farming. He takes Selum variety and gets nearby 20 quintals. In the market of Sangli, he gets Rs. 7,000 to 8,000 rupees per quintal. From the last 12 years, he is doing turmeric farming and spends around 40 thousand rupees in labour, seeds, pesticides and transportation. After digging out the turmeric it has to be boiled in large tanks. For boiling, he spends 500 Rs. per two quintals. After boiling, turmeric has to be polished to get a better price in the market which again takes some 3,000 to 4,000. To put money initially on seeds and other things he takes short term loan from banks with interest rate of 2 percent per year. In case of loss he gives 3 per cent interest which he takes from other villagers. He is getting quite good profit as compared to the last three to four years and has no problem in daily life. He has one buffalo and sells four litres of milk daily at the price of 40 Rs. per litre. Apart from the problem of insects, he doesn’t have any other issue and to tackle this he is using insecticides and other solutions. Productivity has come down from last some years due to continue extraction of minerals and nutrients from the soil. Growing any single crop continuously in the same field leads to fertility decrease because all the nutrients are extracted by the same crop. After the reduction in production, the price is slightly increasing. It is not compulsory that price remains constant or profitable every year. In 2011 and 2012 the price went to Rs. 18000 per quintal. It was the first and last time when prices were so high. He says many farmers lost their yield due to the insect in 2013 which turned all the things around. Even after the loss, turmeric farming is being carried on here because the loss doesn’t hit so badly that they can’t overcome it. Farmers who have more than two to three acres get a healthy profit but those who cultivate in one or less than one acre may suffer loss sometimes.
According to the data of the Horticulture Department, the area of cultivation of turmeric is more than 2,000 acres in Rabkavi and Banhatti taluk. In 2012 -13, the area of cultivation was 202.54 acres in Rabkavi and 716.3 acres in Banhatti with the production of 22.47 quintal per acre and the cost was in between Rs. 3000 to Rs. 4000 per quintal. This much decline is because from 2012 to 2017 yield came down from 22.47 quintal per acre to 16.19 quintal. Price has come up from 4,000 to 9,000 thousand per quintal which is more than double now. Production has been decreased due to over use of fertilisers by the farmers but the price has gone up.
Abhay Kumar Morab, Assistant Director of Horticulture department said, ‘’around 4-5 years back production went up to 30 quintals per acre with the cost of 18 to 20 thousand write properly per quintal. Fine turmeric can be defined as if after cutting the turmeric; a dark red ring shows how good the turmeric which finalizes the price in the market is. Horticulture Department gives subsidy also, up to 40 thousand in one acre for drip irrigation pipeline.’’ The first inspection is being done by us and the company who provides the pipeline to the farmers. In the inspection, we see how they have levelled the soil and if we find it working the farmers get a subsidy, he added further.
Farmers don’t have knowledge about the subsidy and many of them are not getting it as well, some of the farmers said. Because of lack in advertisements, farmers are not much aware and some said that for inspection they take much time. They are irrigating from their tools only.
Dr. Venketash, Professor of University of Agricultural Sciences, Bengaluru, says, ‘’turmeric is the Rhizome oriented plant which needs more organic matter to give a good yield. Lack of nutrition to the plants might be a reason to hinder the productivity. Lack of management like improper spraying of fertilizers and over usage of fertilisers plays a key role for this problem’’.
‘’Crop rotation is must and once this cycle gets disturb the balance of nutrition in the soil also gets disturb. One should not grow the same crop for more than two years because it extracts all the nutrition. To gain the productivity farmers should use organic matter more’’, he added.