Friday, April 25, 2008
Dream is far from Reality!!!!
This is a week where everything seems to have gone wrong, and 95% of the problems relate to the unreliability of the people who had tasks given them, which they have failed to complete and in some cases even start. The great excuse this time was that avurudhu season meant they could not do the work. Farming has no time void, work has to be done according to a different time table, which includes weather, water availability and machine worthiness of agricultural implements.
Agricultural labor sadly being the lowest educated and also notoriously ill disciplined, is part of the turf one deals with and so this is to be expected. I have earlier alluded to this also, where the best format to perform an agri business is fairly large where there are tiers of responsibility and accountability of a large scale unit with economies of scale, or a one man or family show where a peasant farmer just works his land and sells his produce. I am in a format that has no economic future in this current context primarily because I am not large enough to employ managers to run the organization. Spending all the time overseeing the work just to get them off their backs is counterproductive for me.
I am not the only one in this state. Many of the others have alternative income sources, and can subsidize loss making agricultural outfits, and those that I know who have larger tracts, and are making a reasonable return, say that it is the personnel issue that has prevented them from achieving a much better return. There is wholesale pilfering in this sector, as food items are easily marketable, as they cannot be distinguished from where they are sourced.
In my area the price of two coconuts is the price of the half bottle of moonshine (Rs100/-) which is readily available. I can round up in ten minutes 25 able bodied men who are now drunk at this hour of noon only with the promise of course of a free half. How can I feel sorry for these farmers? I have spent Rs 75,000/- buying paddy in the past four weeks to mill and sell in my shop and to my customers, in addition to my own paddy. Much of the money once the debts are paid, will end up in the belly of the my neighbors in the form of kassippu. Where is the sense in this? Today one of the wives squeezed another Rs 10/- a kg for her at the moment drunk husband’s paddy by shifting the date I ostensibly purchased it, just to feed her family. This cost me a paper loss today based on today’s price.
I noted in my journal yesterday that this is the most stressful job I have ever had to do as I have to juggle more crystal balls at the same time than a circus juggler, just to keep standing up. For example some of this morning’s issues.
1) The king coconut plucker has failed to come as promised, so alternative and more expensive means of plucking have to be organized, then the rains came and no one on the farm in Godagama worked from 9am though they get paid for the whole day as they turned up in the morning and no king coconuts got plucked creating a further headache to meet my commitments.
2) One staff member had a disagreement with another and I had to make various promises so she would come to work, as my revenue would suffer.
3) One farmer I made a forward purchase agreement with wants to change the terms of the agreement, to save him from dire straits and is looking to me to help him out, and of course relief is in the form of money!
4) Another farmer I made an agreement with paid the interest in Paddy, but wanted to extend the agreement so he can have a further season to pay back just when I was counting on the principal being paid today, so I can settle the wages.
5) The water from the Minneriya tank was given to our canal effective yesterday, but I have yet to see a drop into my property, so I have to set up investigation as to who is taking water without entitlement so I can get my requirements for ploughing.
6) My staff failed to dry all the paddy I had asked them to so I have to ensure it is dried and bagged for storing for later use inspecting the work.
7) My neighbor wants to borrow my weighing scale I just bought at great expense to weigh the paddy I buy and use etc. I have to decide if his friendship is worth the scale! Especially, as he is notorious for not returning.
8) One of my wholesale customers in Colombo just called asking me to get him a bag of rice. I don’t have the money to buy even knowing he will give me the cash on delivery, but I can’t tell him that, as he wont believe me.
9) We plucked the coconuts and are husking them, I have to decide which of the ones to take for sale, and leave the smaller ones to dry with husk so I can mill for coconut oil as it is more worthwhile doing that than sell small nuts.
10) I need to move the motor to end of the property to wet and plough knowing that the allocation will be insufficient. This is met with resistance on the basis that the existing tasks will not be done and moving the pipes is hard work. I am determined to move it but when I next come the ploughing will not have been done and the pump returned to normal duties.
Each day is different, it makes it interesting, but when one is juggling it is stressful in a robbing Peter to pay Paul scenario.