Agri Business

Where are the Happy Seeders that Punjab’s farmers were promised?

Rajalakshmi Nirmal | Updated on November 17, 2019 Published on November 17, 2019

The water-cooled vibrating grate was developed for combustion of biomass and multi-fuels with little or almost no ash content. (file photo)

Fewer straw-management machines were given out than had been sanctioned

BL Research Bureau

 

In Punjab most farmers have their homes right in the middle of their farms. When they clear their field in October to prepare for sowing wheat, they burn the rice stalks left in the field and their homes remain engulfed by smog for weeks. So, if there is an alternative to crop burning, farmers will only be happy to go for it.

Then, why aren’t farmers opting for Turbo Happy Seeder — a tractor-mounted machine that allows planting of wheat without the need to burn the leftover straw from the previous paddy crop? Despite the Centre subsidising the cost of Happy Seeder up to 50 per cent for individual farmers and 80 per cent for co-operatives since last year, there are hardly any takers.

 

 

 

Despite the best efforts of the State government and the Centre, there is no respite to stubble burning. Farmers are, naturally, being blamed for their reluctance to adopt the new technology.

A BusinessLine analysis, however, finds that not many farmers had an alternative but to burn the crop-stubble.

Limited availability

In 2018, the Centre set aside ₹1,151.8 crore for providing farm straw management equipment at a subsidised cost to farmers of Punjab, Haryana and western-UP over two years. Given that this equipment costs ₹1-3 lakh, the States can’t complain about the allocation.

In 2018-19, according to government data, in Punjab, a total of 28,609 machines were given to farmers. Of these, 9,758 were Happy Seeders and 3,634 Super SMS machines. Super SMS (Super-Straw Management System) is an attachment fitted to the harvester which ensures that the straw gets cut and spread evenly on the field so that Happy Seeder can do it its work efficiently.

In 2019-20, however, only 14,625 machines have been given — which is about half last year’s number. The number of machines sanctioned for the year, based on applications received from farmers, was actually 22,872.

The number of Turbo Happy Seeders delivered to farmers was 2,936 against the sanctioned 4,812, while in the case of Super SMS, it was 528 (990). Similarly, the number of mulchers, reversible ploughs and rotavators and other equipment that help in crop residue management and given on subsidy was also lower than last year.

This shows that many farmers who applied for buying these machines through government subsidy didn’t get them. Thus, the talk of farmers not willing to buy the equipment is unfair.

Further, on breaking down the numbers, it is clear that not much relief from crop-stubble burning can be expected with the number of farm equipment given out.

Sample this: Punjab has about 75 lakh acres under paddy that goes into wheat. Given that a Happy Seeder sows 6-8 acres a day, in about 25 days available (after the paddy harvest to sow wheat), the 12,694 machines given out in the last two years can sow about 25 lakh hectares — or, a third of the total area.

Counting also the Super SMS machine, which is a must if a farmer has to deploy the Happy Seeder, then the land where there is no stubble burning will fall further as the number of Super SMS machines given out is less.

The government empanelled several manufacturers this year to supply farm equipment at a subsidised price. While these manufacturers are equipped to handle large orders, they need time to plan out production.

Sarbjeet Singh Panesar, Managing Director, Dasmesh Mechanical Works, a large farm equipment maker in Punjab, says, “Manufacturers need at least two months to plan production. But this time we were given only 50 days to finish and supply the equipment…”

Rajdeep Singh, Manager, National Agro Industries, another large manufacturer, too complains about the little time given to manufacturers to supply the equipment this year.

If farmers should have machines by mid-October, orders to manufacturers should be given out by June-end or at least the beginning of July. But, this year, orders were sent to manufacturers only by the second week of August.

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Published on November 17, 2019
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