Sickle: The handy harvesting helper

As demand soars, manufacturers face shortage of iron, coal amid lockdown in harvesting season

Ikram Paracha May 07, 2020

BHAKKAR: Alongside the use of heavy machinery in agriculture, the use of sickle continues in the era of modern technology.

The sickle is still a very important tool in harvesting wheat, hay and sugarcane, while it is also used to cut the grass in all seasons.

Women and men cut the grass with sickles because the harvesting machinery does not properly cut it. The sickle is a cheap and easy tool for the poor, which is still needed today.

While talking to The Express Tribune, a sickle maker, Muhammad Akram, said he started producing agricultural tools about 16 years ago.

“As people also use sickles long with machinery for harvesting wheat, we start preparing the sickles before the wheat harvest begins,” he said.

He maintained the shops were closed during the lockdown, due to which many problems occurred, but now they had reopened for the past few days.

Reportedly, many people harvesting wheat were facing problems and the sickle manufacturers were also concerned because there was no iron and coal available, due to which they could not manufacture the tool.

Manufacturers said their new sickles are being sold as soon as they are made because of the high demand after easing of the lockdown.

They highlighted that it takes a lot of effort to make sickles because of the high temperatures required to melt iron, which is the main element used to create the tool.

People who come to buy sickles are mostly poor farmers. They cannot afford the prices which manufacturers demand and usually haggle for a discount.

The amount spent on making the handle is Rs40 to Rs45, while other costs like electricity and shop overheads differ. A sickle is sold for Rs150 to Rs200. They manufacturers melt the iron in a kiln and after it is hot enough, it is turned into smaller pieces that are molded to form the sickle.

The manufacturers usually stock the tools for sale during the harvesting season. If the stock is ready, the manufacturers sell it before taking orders for producing a new sickle.

It takes about an hour to make a sickle where they melting the iron, molding it, preparing the handle and joining all the parts. The manufacturers also refurbish old sickles that have not rusted too much. The blade of an old sickle is re-sharpened.

They charge Rs30 for re-sharpening the blade. Those who buy a sickle this year will also use it during the next harvest.

Faqir Mohammad, who had bought a sickle, told The Express Tribune that he lived in Bhakkar. “We are poor and we work hard to harvest the wheat,” he said.

His family, including children, work together for a yield enough for about four months.

He highlighted that sickle is a great tool for them as it helps them do their daily work without heavy machinery, which they cannot afford.

“If the sickle makers do not make these tools, the farmers will be unable to harvest their crops,” he remarked.

Bigger landowners buy the expensive machinery but still need a labourer to use a sickle. Faqir Mohammad and his family have been harvesting wheat with sickles for 40 years.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2020.


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