Chandigarh: Several of Punjab’s farmers are now making money out of stubble, a much maligned farming byproduct that is otherwise doomed to go up in smoke.
Farmers in Punjab are often blamed for causing pollution with their practice of setting fire to paddy straw, but many of them have taken to selling it to biomass plants and boilers for lakhs.
Gurdaspur-based farmer Palwinder Singh is one such farmer, who bought a baler last year to turn stubble into bales and selling it to businesses.
Baler, an agriculture machine, is connected with a tractor and collects stubble from a field to turn them into bales.
“Last year, we supplied 1,400 tonne of stubble and this year we are expecting to supply 3,000 tonne of straw,” said Palwinder Singh, a resident of Sahari village.
Palwinder Singh collects stubble from nearby villages and then supply bales to a power generating company in Pathankot.
He said he is also selling bales to the Gujjar community which use it as cattle feed.
Palwinder Singh said he and his associates have already recovered all their investment, all within a year, and expect Rs 15 lakh in revenue this year. He sells stubble at the rate of Rs 180 per quintal.
Malerkotla’s Gurpreet Singh is another farmer who is making money out of paddy stubble with the help of balers.
Gurpreet Singh supplies paddy stubble to a CNG bio gas company in Sangrur and another company in Amritsar, besides selling it to the Gujjar community.
“Last year, I sold stubble worth Rs 20 lakh and after deducting all kinds of expenditure, I saved Rs 7-8 lakh,” he said.
Gurpreet Singh sold 1,200 tonne of stubble last year and this year, he plans to sell 5,000 tonnes of it.
He has already signed contracts with companies for the sale of 1,800 tonne of stubble.
“This year, we have plans to store some of the stubble to sell it between January and March when its price goes up to 280-Rs 300 per quintal,” said Gurpreet Singh, who owns 10 acres of farm land in Malerkotla’s Ferozepur Kuthala village.
At present, the price of paddy stubble is Rs 170 a quintal, he said.
Gurpreet Singh said he prevented crop residue burning over 600 acres of land last year. “This year, we will prevent burning over 2,000 acres of land.” He said he is also exploring options to sell stubble in other states, including Gujarat, where there is a demand for it.
More and more farmers in the state are buying balers with the increase in demand for stubble by biomass plants, paper mills, and boilers.
The Punjab government gives subsidy on the purchase of a baler as part of the ex-situ management of stubble.
The state government has already made it mandatory for the brick kilns to use straw pellets for 20 per cent of their total fuel need.
With about 31 lakh hectares of paddy area, Punjab produces around 180-200 lakh tonne of straw every year, of which 120 lakh tonne is under management through in-situ (mixing crop residue in fields) and around 30 lakh tonne through ex-situ (using stubble as fuel) methods.
Paddy straw burning in Punjab and Haryana is one of the reasons behind alarming spike in air pollution in the national capital in October and November.
As the window for Rabi crop wheat is very short after paddy harvest, farmers set their fields on fire to quickly clear off the crop residue for sowing of the next crop.
(Published 29 October 2023, 07:04 IST)