to cauliflower, crops are aplenty at Kandapola
Fresh veggies for all seasons
By Hiranthi Fernando
Terraced fields of vegetables lie amidst the rolling green hills
of tea. Vegetable cultivation is the main occupation in Kandapola.
Its salubrious climate and fertile soil yield rich harvests. Every
nook and corner is taken up by beds of carrots, leeks, beet, cabbage
The work is
hard, but the rewards do come. Some part-time home gardeners find
they earn more from the vegetables than their monthly wage. So come
rain or sunshine, they are out in their fields, tending their crops,
sowing, planting, weeding, spraying and finally harvesting the fruits
of their labour.
A large scale
cultivator, V. Rajendran cultivates ten acres of land that he leases
for Rs.75,000 to Rs 100,000 per acre. He has been in the business
for about 17 years. "I cultivate leeks, beets, carrots, cabbages
while potatoes, I buy from other cultivators as well." Rajendran
employs about 20 men and 10 women on his fields.
His crops are
sold to wholesalers and he also runs a shop in Kandapola town. Prices
fluctuate, he says and he sometimes runs at a loss. A well cultivated
acre of land should yield 10,000 kg of carrots or beet or 15,000
kg of leeks, Rajendran said. Profits per crop per acre are in the
region of Rs. 40,000 to Rs.50,000.
In the case
of potatoes, the profit was much higher, but with imports however,
the farmers' incomes dropped drastically and many gave up cultivating
it. Cultivation has now picked up and Rajendran said the potato
farmers get about Rs.45 per kg at current rates. The cost of cultivating
an acre of potatoes, including pesticides and fertilizers works
out to around Rs. 250,000. The crop sells for about Rs.400,000 if
all goes well.
J.K. Devon Nona
is a small cultivator with forty years of experience. She works
the three quarter acre of land around her house herself with two
or three women to help, only employing men for the more strenuous
jobs such as digging the ground and preparing the beds.
Devon Nona cultivates
just one crop in her vegetable garden, this time carrots. During
a low season she gets about Rs. 10 to 20 per kilo of carrots and
when the market is good, around Rs. 30 to 35. The carrots can be
harvested in four months. Next she plans to put down beet and leeks.
is not all plain sailing however, says another large scale cultivator,
W.M. Kumarathunga, who has 30 years experience. "Although most
of the crops are ready in 3 to 4 months, it is usually not possible
to do three crops for the year," Kumarathunga said. Difficulties
with labour and other factors such as rain and diseases affect their
plans. "We pay Rs. 200 per day for permanent labour and Rs.
325 for casual labour hired from Nuwara Eliya," Kumarathunga
are another problem. Cabbage, especially, is vulnerable to insects
and has to be sprayed with three types of insecticides. During the
past four to five years, vegetable farmers have been battling a
mite that attacks tubers in particular. They have still not found
an insecticide that destroys it. Farmers try all kinds of remedies,
such as Dettol, soap, chillie powder and kohomba. Having found that
the mite is attracted to yellow, on the advice of the Agricultural
Department in the area, the farmers are introducing sheets of yellow
polythene among their vegetables. The polythene is greased and the
mite sticks to it.
do not seem to have a problem in selling their produce. Yet there
are times when they cannot recover their costs. "Brokers from
Nuwara Eliya come and buy our produce," said W.M. Kumarathunga,
Today, brokers pay a fair price, keeping about Rs. 5 per kilo for
themselves but quality is demanded. Thirty years ago, cabbage for
instance, would have been sold for five cents per pound. The labour
cost of cultivating cabbage being low, the brokers buy cabbages
at Rs. 8 - 10 per kilo. Sometimes they resell them immediately from
the site for Rs. 12. The transport costs are then borne by the buyer.
said he grows mostly the common upcountry vegetables, carrots, leeks,
beet and cabbage. Many cultivators do not go in for exotic varieties
such as cauliflower as they are not easy to sell. Items like zuchchini,
are bought by five star hotels but if the demand is exceeded, there
is no market.
and her husband cultivate cauliflower and broccoli along with the
more common vegetables in their half acre home garden. Her husband
works in the Forest Department, so Padmini looks after the veggies.
She first plants these seeds in a mother bed. When the seedlings
are ready they are planted as a border around the more common vegetable.
cannot cultivate vegetables like because the crop is staggered.
They are difficult to grow during rainy weather, have to be shielded
from the sun and are also prone to insect and fungus attacks. The
demand for cauliflower and broccoli is seasonal, increasing during
April and Christmas, Padmini said. A crop of broccoli just harvested
was selling for Rs. 190. The Karunaratnes' income from vegetables
is about Rs.15,000 for a three to four month period on a mixed crop.