The row over the procurement of parboiled rice seems to be having an impact on the paddy sowing in the ongoing rabi season in Telangana. On the other hand, the row is helping pulses and oilseeds make initial gains.

Three weeks into the season, the paddy sowing have been reported only in 745 acres as against the as-on-date average of 11,000 acres.

Lesser paddy acreage

Paddy is grown in an average area of 31 lakh acres in the rabi season in the State. However, the area has gone up well beyond the average area. It has increased to more than 50 lakh acres in the last few seasons.

Experts feel that it is too early to indicate that farmers are shunning paddy altogether. “The area under paddy will certainly fall this season, owing to the uncertainty over procurement. But don’t expect it to fall heavily. They can’t grow any other crop but paddy in some areas,” S Malla Reddy, a leader of All-India Kisan Sabha, told BusinessLine .

While the paddy takes a back seat, pulses and oilseeds have made promising gains. As against the usual average area of 2.32 lakh acres for the season, farmers have completed sowing in about 2.90 lakh acres. The bulk of this comes from groundnut, which is presently sown in 2.77 lakh acres, which is more than double the area sown last year.

The sowing of pulses is also happening at a brisk pace, with farmers showing interest in increasing the area of bengalgram and blackgram. While the bengalgram is grown in 2.29 lakh acres so far (as against 1.82 lakh acres on the same day last year), the as-on-date sowings of blackgram have already crossed the season average of 24,000 acres by covering an area of 53,000 acres.

Govt urges farmers to look for alternatives

With the Union government indicating that it is not going to procure parboiled rice in the future, the State government has launched a campaign, asking the farmers to look at alternatives such as oilseeds, pulses, horticulture crops and vegetables.

A high-level delegation from the State, led by Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, has not received any assurance from the Union government in this regard. The State’s Agriculture Ministry released a detailed booklet, giving details about the alternatives and inputs required for growing such crops.

Farmers, however, are arguing that it is not that easy to switch to other crops overnight. “You can’t sow other crops in some areas as the fields are puddled to make the topsoil soft and the layer underneath hard to stop percolation of water,” GV Ramanjaneyulu, CEO, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, said.

Also read: End of the road for parboiled rice from Telangana?

Most of the farmers’ associations are welcoming the move to dissuade the farmers from going for paddy, particularly in areas that don’t have assured irrigation facilities. But they demand that the State government give them assurance on purchasing the produce (alternative crops).

They should assure procurement of the produce at the minimum support price (MSP), farmers say. In case of crops that are not covered under the MSP, they demand that the State should offer an MSP to encourage them to shun paddy and switch to other crops.