Rs 15 per litre hike in diesel price crushing farmers under financial stress as cultivation costs rise

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Published: September 20, 2018 12:21:06 PM

The total field preparation expense after normal combine-harvesting of paddy would be Rs 2,700 per acre, and if the mounting diesel costs are factored in, it can go up to Rs 3,400 per acre.

maharashtra, maharashtra farmers, agriculture sector, agriculture industry, economy, indian economyMany combine harvester operators in Punjab never raised rates by more than Rs 100 per acre. (PTI)

The constant increase in diesel prices has hit farmers hard as the input costs for cultivation has increased significantly, given the most farming activities are done through water pumps and tractors or combine harvesters that operate on diesel. Notwithstanding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to double farmers’ income by 2022, the farming community is stressed due to rising cultivation costs as combine owners are now left with no option but to increase their rates.

According to the agriculture department data, the paddy area in Punjab this season is 30.42 lakh hectares or 75 lakh acres. The farmers in the state are expected to incur an additional expense of about Rs 193 crore, if combine harvester operators start charging Rs 300 more per acre, and this excludes the 4.37 hectares under basmati which is mostly manually harvested, The Indian Express reported.

Many combine harvester operators in Punjab never raised rates by more than Rs 100 per acre. Until 2012-13, the charge for harvesting, threshing and cleaning paddy or wheat crops for one acre was about Rs 800- 1000, which increased to Rs 1,200 per acre, a rise of Rs 80 during these five years.

Thakur Dyal Singh, a combine harvester from Bariyan village of Mukerian tehsil in Punjab’s Hoshiarpur district, said that he is going to raise the rates for the coming paddy harvesting this season, starting October, and will charge Rs 1,500 per acre, a straight Rs 300 hike at one go. Notably, there is an increase of about 25% in diesel prices, which is currently retailing at Rs 73.87 per litre in Delhi, as against Rs 58.85 per litre a year ago.

“It is big and I’m not happy at all. But given how diesel prices have gone up…do I have an alternative? My fuel costs have risen by over 25%. I am revising my rates, too, by the same extent,” he told the paper.

Another combine harvester from Kanoi village in Sangrur tehsil and district, Raghbir Singh is planning to increase the charges ever more to Rs 1,800 per acre as his combine is fitted with a Super-Straw Management System or S-SMS unit.

“The S-SMS attachment makes the combine heavier. We also need to run it slower for doing the straw cutting and spreading operation. And since it takes 45-55 minutes to cover one acre, the charges are more than for the regular combine. But the increase from last year’s rate of Rs 1,400-1,500 per acre is, no doubt, steep,” he added. Notably, a normal combine consumes about 10 litres of diesel in an hour to cover an acre of paddy in 30-45 minutes.

The total field preparation expense after normal combine-harvesting of paddy would be Rs 2,700 per acre, and if the mounting diesel costs are factored in, it can go up to Rs 3,400 per acre. Apart from this, burning the loose and leftover paddy straw from combine harvesting also need labourer, which means additional costs.

But there is a silver lining as adoption of S-SMS/Happy Seeder technology can prevent paddy straw burning. Using S-SMS/Happy Seeder technology, a farmer can save upto Rs 1,900 per acre. It is tractor-mounted machine, which not only cuts or lifts the standing paddy stubble, but also drills the seeds of the succeeding wheat crop into the bare soil. So, S-SMS attachment, though can increase harvesting cost by about Rs 300, can also help farmers from the headache of spending further and worrying about using any straw chopper or labourer for burning.

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