Not so sweet Pongal for farmers this year either

Swathi Moorthy Chennai | Updated on January 12, 2018

Banana plantations laid waste by Cyclone Ockhi, which devastated Kanyakumari district last month.   -  PTI

While Pongal festivities are in full swing in many parts of rural Tamil Nadu after two years of drought, celebrations will be muted in the southern region due to excessive rain and crop loss.

N Chellasamy, a farmer from Nagercoil, said: “This will probably one of the worst Pongals for us.”

In Nagercoil, the festival is usually celebrated on a grand scale with colourful rangolis covering streets, whitewashed houses and bustling markets. Colourful, freshly-made earthen pots to cook Pongal line streets in the days leading up to the harvest festival.

Muted celebrations

However, this year will be different. “No one is in the mood to celebrate Pongal after Cyclone Ockhi hit the district,” he added. Cyclone Ockhi that hit Kanyakumari last month damaged crops and uprooted cash crops such as banana, rubber and coconut. Farmer organisations estimate the crop loss at ₹2,000 crore.

With so much crop and material loss, Chellasamy said the celebrations will be muted.

In areas like Tirunelveli, which was blessed with a good rainfall this year, P Velmayil, Tirunelveli District Secretary, Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam, said the average cultivation was only 50 per cent. Paddy is a major crop in Tirunelveli district and is grown on 85,000 hectares. “Areas near dams fared well. However, that is not the case with other areas and farmers continue to suffer,” he added.

Pricing issue

Velmayil said, “Most of them have accumulated debt for the past two years and this year, too, we had to postpone planting due to unseasonal rainfall. We will do harvesting only by March.”

ST Shaik Mohideen, another farmer, says: “Even in areas that saw good harvest,, pricing is another problem.” I’m getting only ₹700 per quintal instead of ₹2,000. It is impossible to recover the input cost,” he added.

Reason to celebrate

But farmers like O Perumpadaiyar, a member of the All India Kisan Sabha, have a reason to celebrate with the crops ready for harvest. He said: “We are celebrating Pongal after a gap of two years. The fact that we are able to plant crops this year is itself reason enough for celebrations despite the unseasonal rains.”

V Ayyadurai, a farmer from Ambasamudram, said: “Harvesting has already begun and we hope to complete it by January end in the area. The entire village is looking forward to the day. ”

Published on January 12, 2018

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