As most farmers picked matchstick, Malerkotla man picked their paddy stubble, made 16 lakh in a month
The 25-year-old farmer, Gurpreet Singh Kuthala, says he had entered into an agreement with a Sangrur-based based biofuel generation company to provide them 10,000 quintals of paddy stubble.
For Gurpreet Singh Kuthala, who dropped out after Class 12, the economics of paddy stubble is very simple. For him, the much maligned farm residue means money. An extra income over what he makes from farming on 40 acres of his family land at Kuthala village in Malerkotla.
“I earned Rs 16 lakh in a month by selling paddy stubble,” says Gurpreet. And, just to make sure the other farmers in Punjab understand the import of this achievement, he adds, “Most people working in private sector do not even get an annual package of Rs 8 lakh”.
The 25-year-old farmer says he had entered into an agreement with a Sangrur-based based biofuel generation company to provide them 10,000 quintals of paddy stubble.
“However, I managed to collect 12,000 quintals from about 750 acres of land,” says Gurpreet, who after picking the paddy stubble from his own fields turned to farms in the neighbouring Badhranwa, Khurd and Cheema villages.
The farmers, in the other villages, were happy to let go of the farm waste as they needed to prepare the fields for the next crop.
Incidentally, Malerkotla has reported a sharp decrease in stubble burning incidents. The district had shown its intention ahead of the paddy harvesting season itself when 154 of its 176 panchayats in mid October had passed a resolution against stubble burning. The district administration had earlier announced that it will make red entry if any farmer was found burning crop residue. A red entry simply means that the farmer will not be avail any government facility and cannot take panchayat land on lease for farming.
Gurpreet says he is aware of the debate over paddy stubble burning and its side effects. He worked out the financial implication of managing the farm residue and then purchased two rakers and two balers at subsidised rates under crop residue management scheme.
“I earned Rs 16 lakh. Even if you exclude the expenses on transportation, labour cost, and fuel needed to run balers and rakers, the net profit will be more than Rs 8 lakh. I had two rakers and balers, so I could do only this much work,” says Gurpreet.
The young farmer is now planning to buy more machines ahead of next harvesting season so that he can collect more stubble in lesser time. “We need to clear the fields well in time to make them ready for wheat sowing else the moisture content in the land goes down and farmer ends up losing nearly 15 crucial days,” he adds.
The Sangrur firm, he says had agreed to pay him Rs 160 per quintal for paddy stubble and an addition Rs 10 per quintal as transport cost. “I collected stubble from the fields, made their bundles and transported them to Sangrur. In just 2-3 days, I made the fields ready for wheat crop. As I started picking the stubble from my fields, many farmers contacted me,” says Gurpreet.
He is now planning to collect the sugarcane crop residue as well. Sugarcane harvesting is done by November end or in December’s first week and farmers burn its stubble as well. There’s a sugar mill in Dhuri and so farmers in the area have sown sugarcane in more than 5000 acres. “There’s a wide scope,” he says.
Sayyam Aggarwal, the Malerkotla Deputy commissioner, is all praise for Gurpreet. “His initiative helped many farmers and prevented stubble burning to a large extent. Also many farmers have realised that stubble is worth big money and they can earn out of it,” says Aggarwal.
Paddy straw burning in Punjab and Haryana is often cited as one of the reasons behind the alarming spike in air pollution levels in the national capital Delhi in October and November every year.
As the window for Rabi crop wheat is very short after the paddy harvest, farmers set their fields on fire to quickly clear off the crop residue. Punjab generates around 180 lakh tonnes of paddy straw annually.