Since the harvesting of wheat is all set to be delayed, the state food and civil supplies department has decided to begin procurement from April 10 instead of the usual April 1.
In the last stage of maturing, the crop has been hit by rain and hailstorm during unpredictable weather. Punjab’s total wheat production is expected to fall by 10 to 15 lakh tonnes from last season’s 176 lakh tonnes. At the start of the rabi season, wheat production was predicted to break all records and touch 190 lakh tonnes.
“The crop is unlikely to mature before April 15, though in the previous seasons, it was ready by the last week of March,” said MS Sidhu of the economics department in Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), adding: “It’s a repeat of what happened 33 years ago. In 1982 also, the crop matured three weeks late.
In a report to the Union Ministry of Agriculture on March 25, state agriculture commissioner assessed the loss to be Rs 530 crore. “It will increase in case the weather doesn’t improve,” said financial commissioner (development) Suresh Kumar. About chances of crop’s maturing, he said it required two weeks of dry spell.
Since the crop has not matured, the Punjab government has still not sought consent from the Union Ministry of Finance for the release of cash credit limit (CCL) after the first instalment of Rs 16,460 crore has reached the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) already. Procurement season begins on April 1 all over the country but the states will notify the schedule depending on the maturing of crop in respective regions.
“The region has taken two spells of bad weather. The crop withstood the first onslaught of rain and hailstorm but was damaged in the second. The weather department predicts this third spell of bad weather to continue till April 4, and we hope there is minimum damage to the crop,” said agriculture department director Mangal Singh Sandhu.
In the report to the Centre, Punjab has demanded that farmers be compensated for the reduction in profit, for which there is no provision in the Centre’s policy. “Heavy damage has been caused to the realisable value of the crop due to the decrease in yield. Farmers need to be compensated,” says the report.