With the Southwest monsoon showering its bounty on Kerala in the initial phase, most parts of the State have registered normal rainfall, bringing cheer for the domestic agriculture sector, amid signs of a revival in crop production after years of decline.
According to the seasonal rainfall data published by the India Meteorology Department, Kerala as a whole received a cumulative rainfall of 839.16 mm during the period from June 1 to July 8, against a normal of 869.7 mm, registering a slight departure of -3.51%. All except two districts, Alappuzha and Thrissur, received normal rainfall. In meteorological terms, a percentage departure of -19% to +19% is classified as normal.
Thrissur recorded a seasonal deficit of 27.26% followed by Alappuzha with 21.29%. Palakkad, the rice bowl of Kerala, however, received an excess of 16.21% over the normal, bringing relief for paddy farmers.
Agricultural experts see the seasonal rainfall figures as a sign of good things to come, especially after the long drought. “The rainfall deficiency in Alappuzha may actually be beneficial for paddy production in the below mean sea level farms,” said C. Bhaskaran, former Professor of Agricultural Extension, Kerala Agricultural University. “In fact, the main issue faced by farmers in Alappuzha is drainage of excess water to begin paddy cultivation,” he said. The story is different in Palakkad where timely arrival of rain is critical to paddy production in irrigated fields. “A rainfall deficit in Palakkad can have a significant impact on paddy production,” Mr. Bhaskaran said. While Palakad has 1.2 lakh hectares of paddy fields, Kuttanad has 35,000 hectares. The Kole fields in Thrissur, which constitute the third largest rice bowl in Kerala, covers about 17,000 hectares and the pokkali fields where paddy cultivation is alternated with prawn farming occupy another 8,000 hectares.
The government has announced plans to increase the area under paddy cultivation from 2.2 lakh to 3 lakh hectares and enhance production to 10 lakh tonnes over the next three years. In 2016-17, the State registered a growth of 2.9% in the agriculture sector.
Even as things seem to be looking up, coconut and pepper farmers are yet to recover from the steep fall in production following two years of drought.
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