Saturday, November 22, 2014

Paddy harvest pads up smiles across Sikkim SUBASH RAI

Paddy fields across Sikkim are swathed in a golden hue at present, celebrating the toil and sweat of the summer months which have now ripened to a welcome harvest. What is more, the harvest is more bountiful than last year. It is a happy time in the bastis as the fields receive people again. It is a common sight to find villagers gathering in groups to harvest the yield, enjoying each other’s company in warm glow of almost-Winter Sun. Piles of golden hay can be seen spread out on the fields and farmers found thrashing the hay and carrying away the satisfying load of a sack-full of rice to their homes. By November-end [corresponding with the month of Mangshir on the Vikram Samvat calendar], the harvest will be over and then will kick off the harvest festivities of Namsoong and Lossoong and the fields will stand empty to receive children who will soon begin on their long winter break.
Harvest is a joyous time for farmers, and this year, farmers are noticeably in an even happier mood, overwhelmed as their farms have registered higher production levels. A tour of some villages in East District found farmers reporting sizeable increase in their production.
“Though the rains were lean during cultivation, I recorded an increase in production this cycle,” informs Nimphuti Lepcha of Lingdum. Her four plots of paddy have put out three to four more sacks this harvest compared to last year.
Similarly, Lakpa Lepcha, who was the first to harvest the paddy fields at Chubathang, said, “My field is facing severe irrigation problems the water channels have been damaged by the newly constructed road. But I still managed to produce the same quantity as compared to last year when my fields were better irrigated.”
The two farmers, like most of their village, cultivate local varieties of rice - Sano Attay, Chirakhey, Nunia, Zhapaka etc.
A visit to fields at Sorong [Ranka] brings one to Ram Kiran Subba who had planted hybrid and high-yelding varieties provided by the Food Security & Agriculture Development Department [FS&ADD]. Production here had also increased this year. But he had complaint with the Department. According to Mr. Subba, the seeds are of good quality but the Department distributes them a little too late.
“We need seeds in the month of May, but it reaches us only by June-end and this creates problems,” he states.
The FS&ADD Principal Director-cum-Secretary, P. Tshering Bhutia agrees, but adds that there is a valid explanation. Distribution of hybrid and high-yeilding varieties of paddy comes under the Central Government’s National Food Security Mission. At present, this mission is being implemented in East and West districts only. The seeds have to be ordered from outside states and reach here late, the Secretary informs.
As for the delay, he further explains that is felt only by farmers in higher altitudes where the planting season comes earlier. “For farmers at lower altitude areas, the current schedule is just right,” Mr. Bhutia states.
Besides imported seeds, the Secretary informs that the State Government is also distributing larger quantities of high-yielding seeds grown by the local farmers.
Besides the handsome rice production, the farmers are also thrilled to find the hay dry and clear. Hay is an important product of paddy farming since it is the main fodder for livestock. Rain during harvest had ruined stocks of hay last year, but the weather has held fine thus far this year, enabling farmers to stock up on good quality [and quantity] hay this year.
“If we want to sell the hay, we will fetch a very good price this time and can remit the production costs easily,” said Purna Bahdur Thapa of Lower 6th Mile.
Good quality hay can easily fetch Rs. 400-500 per bundle of around 10-15 kgs at current market prices.

“A dairy farmer having two cows needs at least 200 bundles of hay per year,” informs Lal Bahadur Karki. He has already booked 100 bundles from Mr. Thapa.

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