SRINAGAR: Widespread damage caused to standing paddy crop by the September floods has raised the demand for paddy straw to a level that it is selling at 300 percent more than the last year’s prices.
Last year, one khur (equal to 12 bundles of straw) sold for Rs 36. The same quantity sells for Rs 144 this year, said Tariq Ahmad Dar of Lar, Ganderbal.
The rise in prices has come as a windfall for farmers in non-flooded areas, Dar said, adding that dairy farmers from as far as Pulwama and Shopian visited his village for the straw.
“Not only are the prices high, there is also a shortage of quality straw,” Dar said. He said several dairy farmers were also looking for oat grass, which is considered a better fodder for the cattle during winters. Paddy straw is also widely used in packing of apples and other fruits.
According to Nazir Ahmad Rather of Tangmarg, this is for the first time that farmers are finding paddy straw more profitable than rice.
“There has been a marginal increase in the rice prices for the growers because the government has provided it free in many areas and there are cheaper imports from outside states. It is the paddy grass that is fetching farmers’ good returns,” he said.
The demand for paddy straw from non-flooded areas picked up after the veterinary experts advised dairy farmers against feeding the cattle the contaminated grass from flooded areas.
“This unexpected jump in prices has driven growers this year to grow more oats in their fields than mustard as the demand for fodder is expected to continue till summers,” Rather said.
Hilal Ahmad, who runs a dairy unit at Lassipora, Pulwama, told Kashmir Reader that if the shortage of straw persists there is a likelihood of a hike in milk prices.