Unseasonal rains threaten to damage ripe wheat crops

April 5th, 2008 - 2:18 pm ICT by admin  

By Rajeev Ranjan Roy

New Delhi/Chandigarh, April 5 (IANS) Unseasonal showers in parts of northern India may have brought relief from the heat to people but has farmers readying to harvest their ripe wheat crops very worried. Experts fear that if the rains continue for another day or two, the farmers will be hit really hard as their standing rabi, or winter crops, would suffer damage, aggravating the food crisis.

“Untimely rains are a major concern. Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh are the major producers of wheat. There are reports of rains in Rajasthan, where the untimely frost completely ruined the edible oil crop,” an official in the agriculture ministry told IANS.

Punjab and Haryana, he said, contribute over 90 percent of the total procurement of wheat by the central government.

“In 2006-07, Punjab and Haryana, accounting for 85 percent of the country’s wheat production, contributed 91.80 lakh (9.1 million) tonnes of the total 92.31 lakh (9.2 million) tonnes procured by the Food Corporation of India,” the official said.

“If strong winds accompany the rains, the crop will be devastated and all expectations of a bumper crop this year will be jolted,” said agriculturist Bhagwant Singh of Zirakpur, Punjab.

There were some reports Friday of wheat crop being damaged or flattened because of the rain and winds.

“Rain accompanied by strong winds can cause havoc to the standing crop. The rain alone will not cause much damage,” N.S. Malhi of the Ludhiana-based Punjab Agricultural University (PAU, told IANS.

Ludhiana’s agriculture officer Y.S. Cheena said there were no reports of any major damage to standing crops, but added that problems would crop up if the showers continued.

Jag Shoran, a scientist with the directorate of wheat research in Karnal, Haryana, said the strong winds posed a grave threat to the crop.

“It is a matter of concern but (there is) no need to panic at this stage,” he said.

“Such rains pose serious threat to the standing wheat crops in northern parts of the country where the farmers are gearing up for harvesting. If crops are damaged, the farmers will be in for trouble,” P. Chengal Reddy, secretary general of the Consortium of Indian Farmers Association (CIFA), told IANS.

Government statistics reflect the precarious situation, with the buffer stock of wheat and rice already below the minimum level set by the government.

The stocks of these two commodities available in government warehouses were 19.2 million tonnes in January against the minimum norm of 20 million tonnes. This is a sharp decline from the level of 24.4 million tonnes in January 2004.

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