This rabi season is turning out to be most unpredictable in the recent years. No farmer, agricultural expert or procurement agency knows whether it is going to be worse, even, or better compared with the last.
If the extended spells of rain and cold weather brought cheers on wheat growers and experts in Punjab, the reports of scattered hailstorm, strong winds, and furious downpour piled up worries. In Patiala, Sangrur, Amritsar, Jalandhar, Kapurthala and Hoshiarpur, the anxiety about losses has prolonged, as the harvesting and procurement have been delayed further. In the previous few seasons, procurement would be over by April-end; but this year it had not even started yet.
The latest heavy rainfall on Wednesday night and Thursday morning has added to the concerns of growers, experts, farmers’ commission, and the agriculture department. “This current season was full of uncertainties. It started raining in February when the crop starts maturing; continued in March, and in mid-April, it is still raining,” said an additional-director-rank officer in the state agriculture department.
This season is seen as the repeat of 1982, when it continued raining till May, which delayed procurement as well as the kharif sowing. Harvesting is delayed because rainwater is gathered in fields, and so combines can’t be deployed. State farmer’s commission consultant Dr PS Rangi said farmers would need a bonus of `150 to 200 per quintal over and above the minimum support price (MSP) of `1,450.
The freak weather has not allowed the Punjab government to assess the exact loss to be able to ask procurement agencies to relax their moisture-limit criterion. It has conducted two girdawaris (revenue surveys) to gauge the damage, but every time, fresh spell of rain has come to upset the calculations.
How things have changed
“Earlier, yield would fall in the absence of cold spell, as late varieties were sown and the grain would shrivel and not mature properly. Also the kandi belt (sub-mountainous region) would have inadequate irrigation arrangements, but this time, things changed, as late-sown varieties got proper conditions to mature and the kandi belt had ample rain, which will improve the yield there in a big way,” said agriculture department joint director BS Sohal.
This season in the state, wheat was sown over 35 lakh hectares, of which 9% is in the kandi belt. “Last year, the total production was 175 lakh tones, and loss or gain this year will be known only after the season,” adds Sohal.
“In this very unusual rabi season, weather is changing colour very fast, and we have more loss updates from the field,” said financial commissioner (development) Suresh Kumar. If any new demand for compensation is to be raised with the Centre, it will depend on the final report. “The procurement agencies aren’t able to predict anything, even as they expect losses if the rainfall continues,” he said.
Reason for concern
In 1982, it continued raining till May, which delayed procurement as well as the kharif sowing. This season, too, harvesting is delayed because rainwater is gathered in fields, and so combines can’t be deployed.
Reason for hope
Earlier, yield would fall in the absence of cold spell, as the grains of late varieties would shrivel. Also the kandi belt (sub-mountainous region) would have inadequate irrigation arrangements, but this time, late-sown varieties got proper conditions to mature and the kandi belt had ample rain, so yield is expected to improve.