Unseasonal rain damages crops in north India


NEW DELHI: Farmers in some districts of northern India have lost up to a quarter of their crop on the eve of the harvest because of unseasonal rain and hailstorms, and face the risk of more showers in the days ahead.

Many wheat and mustard farmers in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh are concerned that the even crop that has survived the storms and rainfall would deliver inferior quality grain, which sells at a lower price. Farmer bodies say the losses are heavy, but officials say the damage is limited to some pockets.

“Some districts might have suffered 20-25% loss, but a better picture will come in the next 10-15 days,” said Shoraj Singh, director of agriculture department, Uttar Pradesh. He said district authorities were assessing the losses. Sudhir Panwar, president of the Kisan Jagriti Manch, said wheat, mustard, potato, tobacco and barley were damaged throught UP. “Preliminary reports suggest 20-25% loss in almost all the regions but in some areas of Mathura, Aligarh, Etawah, Saharanpur and some parts of Bundelkhand entire crop is damaged and loss varies between 70-80%,” he said.

Officials said the overall damage has been limited as bright sunshine followed three to four days of rainfall. The weather office expects clear skies for a few days but another weather system is heading for the hilly states of northern India early next week. Punjab’s director for agriculture Jasbir Singh Bains said rainNSE -1.27 % bad weather had the maximum impact on farmers in Moga, Faridkot and Patiala, but on the whole not more than 2% of the crop in the state was hit.

However, Bhartiya Kisan Union-(Rajewal) president Balbir Singh Rajewal said more than half of the 35 lakh hectare under wheat cultivation was hit. “When the crop comes in the market, they will get to know the loss. Due to crop getting flattened the yields are going to fall by 4-5 quintal per acre from the average 15-20 quintal per acre, there will discolourisation of grain and quality issues will come up as it happened in 2015,” said Rajewal.

In Haryana, the state agriculture department has been assessing the damage. “There is no major loss as per our estimates. Kurukshetra and Kaithal saw the maximum rainfall of over 20 mm in the past week while in other districts the intensity was 5-10 mm,” said an official from the Haryana agriculture department. But Sewa Singh Arya, president of the Haryana wing of the BKU, said 10% of the crop was lost. He said farms hit by hailstorms were devastated, but in areas that only faced rainfall, the crop can be retrieved with some additional expenditure.

Rajasthan’s agriculture minister Prabhu Lal Saini said Bharatpur and Dholpur districts were severely hit by rains. “The state agriculture officials are in the field to access the damage. We will ensure farmers get the necessary compensation for the loss,” he said. He said 70% of the wheat and mustard in the state had already been harvested.

Bains said that due to water logging and flattening of crops, labourers would have to manually cut the crop and thresh it rather than go for combine harvesters. Bains said the cost of harvesting will go up in the affected areas by `600-700 more per acre. Winter rains till March are crucial for the wheat crop, with the government pegging production this year at 97.11million tonnes in its second advance estimate. In 2014-15, inclement weather had lowered grain production to 86.5 million.

Source: Economic News