Throughout India the sugarcane producers are put to a great hardship which is why they have been clamouring for price rise as well as minimum support price to be granted by the Government. This is a perennial issue. However, there are certainly a few farmers who grow sugarcane in the organic method with zero budget concept and produce jaggery in their own farms instead of depending on the sugar factories for crushing operations. They are getting a substantial return from their own operations in this manner. Ravichandran of Vilupuram is one such farmer who has been following zero budget method for sugarcane production successfully.
Ravichandran’s farm is situated in P.S.Palayam village near Madhagaadipattu in Villupuram district. Ravichandran’s family has been in agriculture for generations. He also plunged into agriculture soon after his education in 1978. Initially, they were all practising chemical farming operations only for their paddy, sugarcane and plantain productions. The yield kept on reducing year after year. In 1990, they had sent the soil for testing in which it was found out that the soil had lost its quality gradually due to constant chemical farming. Since then they switched over to organic farming using Thozhu uram (manure), sheep manure and related inputs.
In the year 2010, Ravichandran had the opportunity to attend the zero budget training conducted by the founder Subash Palekar. No wonder did Ravichandran start reaping the benefits in his farm since then! Ravichandran’s family has 55 acres of land, all of which is being maintained by him only. The main source of water is from well. He grows sugarcane in 18 acres gooseberry or amla in 10 acres, chappotta or chiku in 6 acres and trees in general in about 16 acres. The remaining 5 acres of land is being used for paddy and plantain.
Ravichandran had been growing sugarcane in his farm as the soil condition was more suitable for sugarcane. He was sending the sugarcane to the factory for crushing but it did not fetch adequate returns. When he was about to give up sugarcane production, he came across the zero budget practice to his advantage. Since then he has been growing sugarcane and has consciously avoided the practice of sending the sugarcane to the factory for crushing purpose. He follows rotation system in order to get jaggery throughout the year. He has been harvesting sugarcane once in two months from 2 acres of land(on a rotation basis from 18 acres) allotted and produce jaggery. He proudly shares that he has been successfully growing sugarcane for the past eight years and it continues to give output in a repeated manner. It is said that it will continue to yield for even hundred years. He says that he has reaped 30 tonne output from the first three harvests and now he is in a position to get 25 tonnes per acre on an average.
Ravichandran says that he gets around 550 lt. juice if he grinds 1 tonne sugarcane. When he harvests 2 acres once in two months, he gets 50 tonne sugarcane from which he is able to receive 27,500 lt. juice. When he heats and boils the same, he is able to get 5,000 kg. jaggery. He sells jaggery at Rs.98/- per kg., thereby getting a sum of Rs.4,90,000/- from sale of 5,000 kg. He is able to get Rs.3,50,000/- after all expenses. He further shares that he gets a profit of around Rs1,75,000/- per acre on an average.
Income & Expenditure A/c. for cultivation of sugarcane in an acre
He further said that due to rotational harvest, he is able to have a constant income. This higher income is possible only because of jaggery production and if sugarcane was sent directly to sugar factories, he could not have even recovered the cost. Initially though he had some problems in marketing, he has overcome that due to organic tag and now he sell directly to bigger cities like Chennai.
How to produce jaggery?:-
We must put a tonne of sugarcane in the crushing machine and take the juice. We must then put it in a big pan(550 ltr capacity) and heat it. We can liberally use the leftover dried sugarcane trash as fuel. In the heating process, the sludge part of it will float on top which must be filtered. 4 spoons of baking soda must be mixed with this essence. After full heating, 200 mg. coconut oil must be poured. This will facilitate the essence to consolidate. We must pour this essence on a wooden plank, spread and allow it to dry in 15 mts and make jaggery in ball shape.. After complete drying, we must stack it in a wooden box. We must protect it from ants and moisture. The jaggery will remain intact for years.
How to procure sugarcane in an acre?:-
Ravichandran shares the details as follows:-
Tamil month of Avani(Aug-Sept) is suitable
We must plough the selected land four times with the help of tractor and irrigate the land with the mixture of 200 lt.jeevamirdha karaisal
After the land dries up, we must plough it once and then construct the bar with 8 ft. distance
The required quantity of sugarcane stem with the ridges should be immersed in the jeevamirdha karaisal and then sow them in each bar with a distance of 1 ft.
We must pour 200 lt. jeevamirdha karisal along with the water meant for irrigation
We must continue the same exercise for ten days and if the land appears to dry up, we can irrigate it
On the third month, sand bunding should be created around the sugarcane stems and if necessary, weeding can also be done
The sugarcane leaves can be removed and used for mulching
If insects attack the plants, herbal insecticides can be sprinkled to do away with them
If leaf insects attack them, we must mix 1 lt. agni asthra in 12 lts. water and sprinkle it.
In ten months from the date of sowing, it will become ready for harvesting.
(This article written in Tamil by Durai Nagarajan for Pasumai Vikatan magazine dt 10/5/18 has been transcreated in English by P S Ramamurthy).