Good mangoes, bad monsoon

Updated: Apr 30 2006, 06:03am hrs
Orissa is laden with a rich mango crop this season. Ironically, this is considered to be a bad omen by farmers. For, a good mango crop signals a bad monsoon and drought, goes an old belief. So, 48-year-old Rudra Narayan Hota of Santolo, Cuttack is quite apprehensive of the monsoon this time. The monsoon was okay for the last two years. But, this time it may fail us.

With five acres of rainfed farmland, Rudra depends on the monsoon for a good harvest. In a good season, he harvests 100 bags of paddy, enough to feed his five-member family and meet other expenses for the whole year. But he faces hard times when the monsoon plays truant.

With palpable nervousness Rudra is now preparing for the kharif paddy crop. The tilling will start after the pulses are harvested early next month. Rudra has booked three bags of paddy seeds for the season. The seeds will cost him something around Rs 2,250. A monsoon failure will cost me a lot, he says.

As the forecast says the monsoon will be slightly below par this year, fear of failed rains looms large. For, out of the total 65.59 hectares of cultivable land, over 38 lakh hectares are rain-fed.

Monsoon virtually decides Orissa's economy as agriculture contributes nearly 28% of the state's gross domestic product and employs over 70% of the workforce. With a normal monsoon, the state receives an annual rainfall of 1482.2 mm distributed over 72 rainy days. The South-West monsoon contributes about 81-83% of the annual rainfall in 53-57 days during June-September.

Rainfall is not only required to be adequate but also to be spread over 72 days for a good crop, says Dr Lalit Mohan Gadnayak, an expert on rain-fed farm land agriculture of the Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT).

To save the crops from a dry spell, farmers could use potassium based fertiliser which are drought resistant, tips off the OUAT scientists.

Gadnayak recommends that farmers adopt drought resistant types of paddy like Jogesh and Sidhanta. Experts also advise farmers to go for inter-cropping system. Pulses like arhar are recommended for sowing along with the paddy.

Ramesh Sahu, a small farmer of Chandanpur village in Ganjam, however finds it difficult to go for an alternative crop. It is almost impossible on the part of a poor farmer like me to save the crop or go for an alternative crop in case of a monsoon failure.

Agriculture in the state is suffering already and distress sale of paddy has become routine. A bad monsoon just worsens the situation. Farmers can only pray the mangoes are not a bad omen.