The damage to the rabi wheat crop from unseasonal rains and hailstorms could be as much as Rs 7,000 crore, reports Sandip Das in New Delhi. This is based on the agriculture ministry’s revelation that crop grown on around 62 lakh hectare out of a total sown area of 306 lakh hectare have been damaged. The damage is most visible in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Harvesting of the crop in these states, sources said, will be delayed by a couple of weeks to the April-end.
“We need warm weather in the next few weeks so that crop impacted by rains dry up and grain quality remains intact,” Indu Sharma, director, Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley, a Karnal-based organisation under the agriculture ministry, told FE. She said that an advisory has been issued to farmers against commencing harvesting in ‘panic’ due to frequent spell of rains as it may impact grain quality.
Usually, the wheat harvest in northern India begins from April 1 while in Madhya Pradesh, farmers commences harvesting operations from middle of March.As per the second advance estimates released in February, the country’s wheat production during 2014-15 is expected to be 95.76 million tonne, which is marginally lower than the previous year.
“The projected wheat output is expected to fall in the range of 5% to 10%,” an agriculture ministry official said. The biggest damage to standing wheat crop due to hailstorms and rains have been in the states of Uttar Pradesh (21 lakh hectare), Haryana (17 lakh hectare) and Rajasthan (17 lakh hectare). Besides relatively smaller wheat sown areas of 2 lakh hectare each in Punjab and Madhya Pradesh have been damaged.The agriculture ministry has also asked farmers to use existing soil moisture for growing short duration pulses like moong bean after wheat crop is harvested.
“The recent rains have enhanced the soil moisture content which could be used for growing pulses immediately after wheat is harvested and farmers can compensate a part of crop less by this method,” KV Prabhu, joint director (research), Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), a premier institute under the ministry of agriculture, said.
Besides wheat crop, other rabi crops such as pulses, mustard and horticultural crops spread across 106 lakh hectare in 14 states have been damaged by the recent rains.The Centre had recently asked the state governments to provide assistance to farmers from the State Disaster Relief Fund, which had funds to the tune of Rs 5,270 crore for utilisation last fiscal.”In case there is any short fall of money in the states’ kitty under the SDRF, the Center will chip in with the money from the National Disaster Response Fund,” said an official