Crops never fail - only we do!(Edit)

2007 Samba is considered to be a year of crop failure for samba paddy in Tamil Nadu. This is because of unseasonal and unpredictable rain - especially a very heavy downpour during mid-January causing fully grown paddy to be submerged in flooded fields. Add to this increasing labor costs, non-availability of labor and the rice farmer has every justification in wanting to sell his land! So what happened at Nitya farm?

When everyone is selling land, we bought 3 acres of land in 2007! Land that has no groundwater or electricity connection (but canal irrigatable). We planted kitchadi samba throught out 6 acres of land and white ponni in one kaani (33 cents). All organic ofcourse and with no fertilizer inputs. Our input costs were

Per Acre

Seed 15 kg ........ 225.00

Plough (2 saal)..... 650.00


3 men............... 330.00

15 women............ 750.00

Weeding - 0.00

Fertilizers - 0.00

Pesticides - 0.00

Total pre-harvest: 1955.00

The seed-bed management was done by our caretaker himself as we had less than 20 cents of nursery for the whole 6 acres. We spent a total of 12,000 for planting 6 acres: an unimaginable figure in today's agro economy.

What about the harvest?

Almost 3 acres of fully grown, ripe paddy was submerged in water for over a week. We harvested that first and to our everlasting surprise, not a single paddy had sprouted; and the rice stalk hadnt rotten and harvest was possible (although very time consuming and therefore expensive). We immediately sent all the wet paddy to the rice mill for making parboiled rice and we got a yield of around 1200 kg of paddy and 700kg of good quality parboiled rice per acre. The cost of harvesting this was around Rs.3500/acre. The sale value of this rice should be Rs.25/kg (as all rice prices have increaed this year).

So by spending 5500 we got a produce of 17500. After all expenses we should still get Rs.10000 per acre as nett profit in a year of crop failure.

In the other 3 acres, where crops were standing or the fields were un-flooded, we again got a yield of Rs.1200 kg/acre which can be sold as raw rice. The harvesting cost was again around 3000/acre (because this was done after Pongal and the demand for labor had increased casuing me to use women labor for harvest and shelling almost Rs.90/day for a woman worker. Some of the women were so old they couldn't stand upright but we shelled out the money as we had no choice!). We have all this paddy dried and stored in our godown. We already have a lot of offers for our raw rice kitchadi samba. And I am planning to sell it for Rs.28 a kg. At the usual 62% outturn this should fetch me atleast 720kg/acre of rice per acre which will realize 20,000/acre. (White ponni was a big surprise producing 660 kg of paddy in 33 cents!).

Looking at the economics again we see an input of 33,000 for 6 acres and a return of 1,12,500. This is an earning over 75,000 in 6 acres for the organic rice farmer who works only 10-15 days a year. And that too in a year of crop failure.

If we study this a little more we can see that most of the expenditure is for the harvest and less than 25% for input. Now, harvest is an expense we incur after we see the results, so it is a no-risk expense. Had all my crop failed , I would have had to spend only 12000 for 6 acres and I would have gotten my money back by harvesting just 1 ton of standing paddy (unlodged). This would have meant only 12 men or a harvesting cost of 1500. So my breakeven yield is exceedingly low. And my working capital requirement is also exceedingly low. This is what organic farming and native seeds do to a farmer. They lower risk, guarantee a minimum return and also improve the soil.

We did no weeding. There were weeds but they got smothered by the tall native variety. The whole of my neighbours' crops were seriously affected by Brown Planthopper (Nilaparvata Lugens - pugaiyan in Tamil) and some areas in our district sprayed pesticides over 8 times in 2 months. Yet my native crop was very resistant and simply flourished in these adverse conditions. Only farmers who have suffered from pest attacks can really enjoy the resistance of native seeds.

Add to this the fact that we used the farm pumpset only for the nursery, we really get into the exotic realm of eco-friendly rainfed farming with near do-nothing farming. Yet all this is not in the experimental plots of foreign sponsoreded NGO's or government funded agricultural scientists but in the fields of the small farmer!

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