English vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, carrot and beetroot are normally grown in the hills, especially the Nilgiris where the maximum temperature during summer rarely crosses 25 degree Celsius. Similarly, Hosur is another region in Tamil Nadu known to be climatically conducive for English vegetables.
But A. Mohammed Jinnah, a heavy vehicle driver who returned home in 2008 from Kuwait where he worked for more than 15 years, has been brave enough to try these vegetables in Perambalur district where 35 degrees Celsius is considered a normal temperature.
While Perambalur is known for maize, cotton, small onions, and so on, Mr. Jinnah decided to chart a different course by growing English vegetables.
“I am not satisfied with what I have achieved so far. I believe I still have a long way to go,” says this 43-year-old farmer who has finished 10th standard and done some computer networking courses.
A native of Viswakudi in Perambalur district, he started trying various crops on four acres of land.
“I attempted to raise tapioca first and suffered losses. For tapioca tubers, there is no minimum support price in the country and hence we are at the mercy of the middlemen”.
His next venture in 2011 was maize. Even that did not pay dividends.
Next he raised BPT paddy and despite a good harvest all that he could manage was a profit of Rs. 5,000.
“Paddy requires a lot of maintenance and expenses towards fertilisers and pesticides,” he says.
He tried out “super Ponni” (deluxe) variety on two acres of land which fetched Rs. 1,220 per bag of 76 kg. “I could get 23 bags per acre. Of course, spiralling price of fertilisers has played havoc and the net result is that I didn’t get much profit for all the strain that I have undertaken. I have raised groundnut also,” he says.
Since March last year, there has hardly been any rain (The district received just 674 mm during 2012 as against the normal annual rainfall of 791 mm).
“The only option I could think of was vegetables. I have experimented with a number of vegetables including chillies, tomato, carrot, beetroot, cabbage, and cauliflower, each on a plot of six cents to eight cents.
“I believe that comparatively less water will o for these horticultural crops. I am trying to dig a well. Earlier, it had a depth of 67 ft and I was able to pump water for 30 minutes using a 5 HP motor. Thanks to the drought now, even after digging 15 more feet, all that I am able to pump water only for 15 minutes.”
“”I have been advised that I should go up to 110 ft to get considerable water but I can’t afford it because it would cost me at least Rs. 2.4 lakh more as the well as a circumference of 50 ft. Hence, I am trying for a side bore which might augment water supply to an extent.”
He has harvested 2,100 kg of cauliflower and 2,300 kg of cabbage. But he is not happy with the quality of beetroot because it has suffered whenever there was no water.
Mr. Jinnah has applied for drip-irrigation subsidy and the officials have promised to visit his farm shortly.
He is planning to raise turmeric and green fodder on two acres of land next. “I want to rear a couple of milch animals.”
His only plea to the district administration is that people like him, who are new farmers, should be allowed to sell their produce at the uzhavar sandhai .