Rains damage crop in 6.2 mh; production may decline further
The country’s wheat production is likely to decline 4- 5% in the ongoing rabi season due to unseasonal rains and hailstorms in the last few weeks, agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said on Tuesday.
“As per the the initial estimate received from various states after unseasonal rains, the wheat production could drop by 4 – 5% this year,” Singh said after addressing the National Conference on Agricultural Kharif Crops 2015.
In the second advance estimate released in February, the agriculture ministry had projected a marginal decline in wheat output to 95.76 million tonne in 2014-15 crop year (July-June) from 95.85 million tonne in the previous year.
However, agriculture ministry officials said with the wheat crop in around 6.2 million hectare (mh) out of total sown area of 30.6 mh have been damaged due to rains, the output could decline further.
“Our team will be visiting Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in the next few days to assess the extent of crop losses,” an agriculture ministry official said.
The most affected states are Uttar Pradesh (2.1 mh), Haryana (1.7 mh) and Rajasthan (1.7 mh). Besides relatively smaller wheat sown areas of 0.2 mh each in Punjab and Madhya Pradesh have been damaged.
The other key rabi crops adversely impacted by unseasonal rains include mustard, pulses and barley.
Singh also said the states have adequate funds under State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) to provide financial assistance to farmers affected by the unseasonal rains. He also noted that the Centre is ready to give additional funds to states once they utilise those available with them under SDRF.
The government has also set up an informal group of ministers, headed by home minister Rajnath Singh, to look into the issue of raising cap of financial assistance given to farmers whose crops have been affected due to unseasonal rains and other natural calamities.
Meanwhile, the food ministry has asked governments of Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh to test samples of wheat jointly with Food Corporation of India (FCI) so that relaxation in quality norms could be considered.
In the ongoing rabi procurement season, the quality norms for wheat crop, which has lost its shine, have already been relaxed in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. “After testing the samples in Madhya Pradesh, shrinked and broken grains have been allowed upto 10%,” an official statement said.
Due to delay in the harvest, wheat procurement by FCI and state government-owned agencies in northern states such as Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan have been delayed by more than three weeks and is expected to commence only at the end of the current month.
While FCI had a wheat stocks of close to 20 million tonne at the start of March, which is far more than the buffer stocks requirement of only 7 million tonne. The government is aiming at purchasing 30 million tonne of wheat during current marketing season (April – June).