The disappointing monsoon has not only hit paddy in Punjab but also upset the crop diversification plans of the state government. Worried farmers — especially those who have sown the normal, coarse-grain variety of paddy — are now hoping for some rain in the next couple of weeks to sustain their water-guzzling rice crop, even as the meteorological department has said the situation won’t change much.
Already, citing drought-like conditions, the state has asked for a Rs 2,330-crore relief package from the Centre for the increased input costs and the depleting groundwater level.
This year, of the paddy sown on 28 lakh hectares in Punjab, 20 lakh is coarse rice variety covered under the minimum support price (MSP) regime, while the rest is basmati. “we were expecting increase in area under maize by about 2 lakh hectares, but it is not more than 1 lakh hectares this season due to poor rainfall,” said agriculture department joint director BS Sohal. He added that in case of good rains by August 20, there would be good yield; otherwise, the prospects look grim.
The meteorological department figures from June 1 to July 31 say the state witnessed 59% deficit in rainfall. The worst affected are parts of the Malwa belt, the food bowl of the state. Districts Sangrur and Barnala have rain deficit of 83% and 87%, respectively. In absolute figures, against an expected 239.4mm rainfall in June and July, only 98.7mm was received.
Faridkot district has seen only 9% deficit, but Patiala stands at 77%, Fatehgarh Sahib 78%, Amritsar 71% and Bathinda 36%.Due to scattered rain since the onset of monsoon, farmers in the kandi area have unable to transplant paddy from nurseries. There are pockets where paddy is still to be transplanted.
Where the crop has been transplanted, the drought-like situation is leading to its stunted growth. Farmers are experimenting with different kinds of iron and zinc supplements, which, according to the experts, were not required. Sohal advised farmers not to panic and avoid falling into the trap of companies selling soil supplements.
In the absence of rain, a huge amount of subsoil water is pumped out with tubewells, adding to the cost of diesel and electricity. According to Sohal, farmers are spending Rs 8,000 per acre extra on diesel thus.
Meanwhile, the meteorological department predicted not much rain in the coming 8-10 days in Punjab.
“It is going to be as it has been since the beginning of the current monsoon,” said Met director Surender Paul. He predicted good rain for neighbouring states “Foothills in Punjab are still expected to get some rain," he said.