Farmers worried as unseasonal rains threaten to damage wheat crop

April 5th, 2008 - 8:07 pm ICT by admin  

(Lead, combining earlier related stories)

New Delhi/Chandigarh, April 5 (IANS) Farmers in northern India are wishing the skies clear up and it stops raining. The sudden thunderstorms and unseasonal rains lashing the region in the past two days has battered their wheat crop that is all ready to be harvested.
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 be damaged, 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 Najafgarh district near the national capital, Ram Kishan Yadav, a 75-year-old farmer, looks worried as he scans the heavily overcast sky. His wheat crop, standing golden and ready for harvesting, has been partially damaged and he does not want more showers.

“The wheat was ready to be harvested and rain at this time of the year is not good as it damages plants,” Yadav said, standing in his fields in Ghumanhera village in Najafgarh.

“With a good growing season I was expecting a good rabi (winter) crop but all efforts will go drown the drain if the rains continue,” Yadav told IANS.

The rabi sowing season starts in October-November and crops are harvested March onwards.

The plight of Suresh Dagar of Ujja village is no different. “I had switched from wheat crop to cabbage in one of the fields for the first time. But the rains have damaged both the crops badly,” Dagar rued.

“This year is going to be bad. I will have to see whether I will recover the money spent on seeds, pesticides and fertilizers,” he added.

Over 20 villages in Najafgarh district experienced intermittent rainfall.

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

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

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.

Meanwhile, most parts of Punjab and Haryana experienced widespread rainfall Saturday.

Met officials said rainfall occurred over Chandigarh, Ambala, Hissar, Karnal, Rohtak, Bhiwani, Narnaul, Panchkula and Kalka (all areas in Haryana) and Amritsar, Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana, Patiala, Mukerian, Ropar and Mohali (all in Punjab).

They said the rains could continue during the next 24 hours also.

Though harvesting has begun in parts of both states, major harvesting will commence only after Baisakhi festival April 13.

Punjab’s agriculture director B.S. Sidhu too said that no reports of extensive damage to crops had been received so far.

“Wheat has been sown in over 34.8 lakh (3.4 million) hectares of agricultural land this time. I have checked with various areas in Punjab and the crop has not suffered much damage so far,” Sidhu said.

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