No one knows, what will happen this year. Last year, the fields were mostly barren and farmers had to struggle for whatever grain they could reap from the fields which had faced the brunt of drought, unseasonal rains and untimely release of fertilizers. The granaries of the poor farmers are empty and nothing to show for the hard labour they had put in the paddy fields. The situation has reached such a predicament that, there are no takers for agriculture land up for sale.
Some owners are selling off land at throwaway prices. Some time back, Manipur Agriculture Minister Th Bishwajit was heard appealing to farmers to put in maximum efforts to increase rice production as the state government had taken a decision to buy paddy directly from the farmers at a reasonable price fixed by the government. No doubt, it was a good decision. In the last few years, the price of paddy and local rice had fallen to such a level that poor farmers were struggling to make ends meet, while grocery shops had even stopped stocking Meitei Cheng.
As Covid-19 entered the scene and the Narendra Modi government flooding the country with free rice. Suddenly, paddy cultivation became a bad investment both for the poor landless farmers and the landholders. In such a situation, the state government’s initiative to buy up surplus paddy from farmers at Minimum Support Price (MSP) was a welcome move. But, the state has to seriously study the pathetic situation in our fields owing to several factors and discuss how to remedy it.
The future of agriculture has become bleaker in the absence of a sound state agriculture policy coupled with the new challenges brought forth by the impact of climate change. The reasons given are lack of adequate rainfall in time, unprecedented rise in temperature and of course the chaos in distribution of fertilizers. This pattern has been going on for the last few years and paddy cultivation is becoming a losing pursuit on account of high cost of production and no remunerative price.
The present trend of declining profitability together with higher cost of new technology and a degree of uncertainty, in both price and productivity, meant that farmers had to bear tremendous risks in agriculture. High yield rate, high cost of production and low profitability is the present scenario of agricultural enterprise in the state. We also appreciate the efforts of the state government to save paddy land and check the unwarranted use of paddy fields for non-agriculture purposes. An appeal was made to stop constructions of structures in paddy fields and warned of legal action against violators of the Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetlands Act, 2014.
Irabot Foundation’s 10 point memorandum includes taking up measures to restore Manipur's natural farming system, provide irrigation facilities for farmers on a war footing and investigate the failure of irrigation canals in Manipur, formulate a water policy and rejuvenate all traditional water bodies in Manipur, to declare Manipur an organised state by 2024, formulate a farmer's Agricultural Market Policy in the morning, protection and preservation of all arable and agricultural land, framing policy for land use.
It also called for ensuring the best utilisation of land in both hills and valleys of the state, establishing facility to preserve indigenous and traditional seeds, allocate more fund in agricultural, horticulture, veterinary and fisheries, minor irrigation and address the impacts of climate change on indigenous agricultural and the increased patterns of disaster such as drought and flood in Manipur. All very well that we have a group which is essentially devoted to promotion and upkeep of agricultural activities in the state and we hope to see a sound agricultural policy in the near future.