Drastic fall in Pokkali cultivation in district

Labour shortage & prawn cultivation reason.

Kochi: With another season for the unique Pokkali cultivation round the corner, scientists and experts caution over dwindling rice cultivation in the district due to acute labour shortage and farmers indulging in prawn cultivation alone instead of mixed farming.

“Last season saw the cultivation of the most popular rice variety shrinking to an alarming 590 hectares from 1100 hectares. The drastic fall is from 20,000 ha nearly five years ago and we expect worse this upcoming season,” said an official of the Principal Agricultural office, Pokkali Land Development, Kakkanad Civil Station.

V Sreekumaran, Head, Rice Research Station, Vytilla, warned that the coastal areas in the district would soon face the same fate as Andhakaranazhi in Alapuzha district where residents face acute drinking water shortage woes due to a salinity problem after farmers indulged in prawn cultivation alone round the year.

“The substantial income from the subsidiary prawn cultivation tempted the farmers there to concentrate on prawn cultivation alone without going in for paddy cultivation. This resulted in stagnancy of saline water that ultimately resulted in the depletion of underground fresh water. Ernakulam district too faces the same threat,” Sreekumaran said.

“In the long run, the farming system involving rice followed by prawn/ fish is the only sustainable model. Prawn cultivation alone will be profitable for a year but cannot be sustained besides it causes several diseases to prawns,” said Shyam Sundar (32), a young farmer who indulged in cultivation on a 25-acre Pokkali tract at Nayarambalam near Vypeen.

Currently, Pokkali farming has shrunk to just five out of the total 14 blocks in the district – Njarakkal, Paravur, Aluva, Kalamassery and Vytilla. Pokkali cultivation starts in April when farmers strengthen outer bunds and set up sluices to control water levels.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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