Two months after floods caused havoc in Kerala and flattened major standing crops, leading to losses estimated at over Rs 2,000 crore, the state government has decided to distribute crop inputs, particularly seeds, as a part of the rehabilitation package for affected farmers.
Paddy is the worst affected among all major crops, leading to an estimated loss of 2.45 lakh tonnes of rice, Kerala Agriculture Secretary D.K. Singh said, adding the state needed to procure at least 8,000 tonnes of seeds for distribution among farmers.
"Other major crops that have suffered huge losses are banana, cardamom, pepper and tapioca, besides vegetables and tubers. The damage is unprecedented, so we are planning to restart the agricultural cultivation processes by providing inputs to farmers," Singh told IANS.
"First on the list are seeds, which will be provided free of cost. We are in touch with the seed breeders."
The role of pesticides and fertilisers will come into the picture three months later as procurement of seeds and making farms ready for sowing is the priority, he added.
The government should also bring agricultural universities and other related agencies on board for crop management activities, said Robin Edwin, Managing Director of Mosaic India, a crop nutrition management company.
"It must be ensured that seeds for second sowing are procured and distributed seamlessly. A crop contingency plan with drought-resistant varieties should be developed," he said.
Monitoring soil moisture, the area under sowing and types of crop to be cultivated, along with alternative cropping possibilities, should also be undertaken, he added.
However, before the farmers can get back into action, the state government has the gigantic job of removing the sludge that has accumulated on the farmland and in the water channels after the flood waters receded.
"We are working on how to raise and mobilise resources to make the soil fit for cultivation. The rehabilitation work will be done with the help of multilateral agencies such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB)," Singh said.
The Kerala government has prepared a financial plan to tackle the issue and has sought additional funds from the central government.
According to a report prepared by the World Bank and the ADB last month, Rs 25,046 crore is required for the rebuilding of the state, with highest impact on agriculture among livelihood sectors, where the estimated loss is Rs 2,093 crore.
According to the Kerala government, over 400,000 tonnes of bananas were damaged in the deluge, just days before the harvesting festival of Onam, after 21,000 hectares of plantations came under water.
Another major commodity that took a hit is pepper and government estimates show plantations on 98,000 hectares were damaged.
Around 35,000 hectares of cardamom fields, 365 hectares of coffee plantations and 122 hectares of rubber plantations reeled under the flood fury, Singh said.
The other crops lost in the incessant rain and subsequent flooding include 1.81 lakh tonnes of tapioca and 1.30 lakh tonnes of vegetables and tubers.