Tapioca cultivators in Pachamalai have been experiencing a serious fall in yield due to serious depletion of groundwater table on the hills.
Tapioca cultivation has been their main source of livelihood for decades and the red loam soil and the moisture content in it have been facilitating the growth of tapioca. The mushroom growth of sago industries in the adjoining areas of Salem and Athur down the hills has been favouring an assured and prospective returns for the farmers.
The crop is raised during the month of ‘Aadi’ corresponding to June -July and an estimated 3,000 hectares had been brought under the crop in the Uppilliyapuram and Thuraiyur blocks in the district.
“The soil texture in Pachamalai is highly suited for tapioca to such an extent that the hills accounts for a major area of 1,000 hectares,” says an official source. The farmers largely rely on the groundwater potential for raising the crop although the north-east monsoon has been highly favouring the cultivation process.
A cross section of farmers of Periya Chittoor say that they had incurred a huge expenditure pinning hopes on the timely onset of rain. “I had invested ₹ 1.20 lakh for raising the crop in last June on eight acres of land, only to be duped,” says M. Manickam of the village. He said that the crop needed periodical application of fertilizer and a major part of expenditure was on fertilizer.
R. Kangaraj of Chinnamangalam said that the usual yield per acre stood at five tonnes. Farmers cultivated ‘rose tapioca’ or ‘H-165’ variety which were rich in starch content. “Not even a single bag has been harvested this year,” he says.
Officials of Horticulture Department concede that the tapioca cultivation had been badly hit this season. The plight of those who had taken advance from the sago industries was still worse. The growth of the plant and the crop was far less than usual. The Horticulture Department had conducted a survey for sanctioning some relief to the farmers. The relief was being credited with the farmers’ bank accounts.