Friday, May 8, 2009
Each dynamic in the fluidity of agriculture requires second-guessing at every turn
I witnessed the the opening of the sluice gates (2) of the Minneriya tank yesterday, which with the debri of the canals, the first rush of water eventually feed the paddy fields in our area for this Yala season. The problem is that the Tank is far from full, the real bad news for me is that we have been told that the water allocation will drop to 70% of normal and we have been requested to only cultivate 70% of our fields, for which the subsidized fertilizer would be given proportionately less.
To a reader of my blog it spells disaster for my cultivation, as in the best of times I have to fight for water, risking life and limb in the dead of night, legitimately closing the neighbors water pipes to allow sufficient water to flow into my fields. In my case as I am at the end of the tributary canal, I will most definitely get NO water as the neighbors upstream will take all the water they can. Earlier I was allowed to close the water for a night to ensure I had at least a chance of filling my fields once a week.
The way the water allocation is rationed in practice is that previously the canals were open three days a week and now it will be down to two, and so farmers will be fighting for this lower allocation. I am therefore trying to foresee the problems ahead and plan for this eventuality. I have one of two options open to me. The easiest approach is and which has been adopted on this property since it was given over 70 years ago in the initial Minneriya colonoization scheme, is not to cultivate this season. I can remember when I bought this property it was in a desolate state of abandonment a sea of overgrown weeds. The more difficult one is to purchase a large capacity water pump and try to do the impossible, completely cultivate all my fields on water pumped up from the river running beside my property.
A complete sucker for punishment as some blog readers have called me, I have chosen the latter course. In time, I will report to you the progress and the pitfalls of this approach as well as the economics of this. The first thing I learned a generation ago in my first economics class was that it is the study of the optimum allocation of scarce resources. I don’t know if this comes under that or simply a roll of the dice! In this roll the downside of losing big outweighs the upside of making a little more than break even. That is why we farmers are foolish, and always seem to roll the dice when there are no odds of making a good return.
Now if I take the easy course, you blog readers will not have anything to smirk about, so I decided to take an even bolder step, in keeping with my previous record. In my 6 seasons farming rice paddies in my life, I have grown 5 varieties of rice on my land, and I have decided to take the plunge and try a 6th, something I have not even tasted, and is still in the experimental stage. It is the CIC developed, ‘Red Basmati’. They want me to grow it as a seed paddy to increase their stock of seed paddy so that CIC will have many out-grower farmers grow for them, as they will guarantee a minimum price. If you go to the CIC shops, you will see their “Golden Crop” brand rices they sell and I believe a packeted kilo is sold at Rs150 or more. I bought the 5 bushels of seed paddy (20.5kg a bushel) at Rs1350/- a bushel. This is for 5 bushels of land, which is one hectare.