AFCB scripts success story in Kerala

G. K. Nair

Kochi, May 7

The experiment with organic paddy cultivation under joint farming co-operative system by the Adat Farmers Cooperative Bank (AFCB) in Kerala's Thrissur district has turned out to be a success story for all peasants with smallholdings to emulate.

It is probably the realisation of 2,400 farmers that small size of the unit of cultivation is possibly the biggest single factor causing low productivity besides the fact that small plot means small output, higher costs and lower money incomes, that has motivated them to take up the cultivation under joint farming.

Eye-opener

Farming under such a system has become the need of the hour for Kerala, which depends on other States for 75 to 80 per cent of its rice requirement of 40 lakh tonnes, said Mr M.V. Rajendran, President, AFCB. For the farmers who had either shifted to other crops or abandoned paddy cultivation citing high cost of production, the experiment of the Thrissur farmers could be an eye-opener, he said.

Group farming

In a joint farming cooperative, the members pool their holdings, which are not large enough for profitable farming, and cultivate them jointly, adopting improved practices, each member receives wages for his daily hours.

When the produce is sold at the end of the season, he gets a dividend in proportion to the area of land contributed by him and a share of the income from the produce, proportion to the labour contributed by him.

Such a cooperative farming jointly makes its purchases of seeds, fertilisers or equipment and undertakes land improvement work.

The bank, thus, constituted nine farmers' committees to undertake the cultivation, right from pumping out the water from the paddy fields, which remain under water for about seven months of a year. It distributed Rs 1.5 crore to the farmers as interest free loan of Rs 6,000 to each of them. It purchased seeds and all other inputs. The total cost after harvesting, he said, came to Rs 2.10 crore. The proceeds from the paddy sales would come to Rs 5.10 crore. The balance amount of Rs 3 crore would be distributed among the farmers proportionate to their land holding, he said.

Significantly, it is in this state a Group Farming Programme for rice production was conceived over a decade ago as an institution to increase output and had failed to fulfil this mission.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated May 8, 2006)
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