Excess heat just after a chilly winter set off a near invisible insect to damage 50 to 60 per cent of standing crop of Arhar pulse in Uttar Pradesh. Crop impairment comes when the prices of this lentil were going down everywhere. In the last seven days the prices have jumped Rs 20 a kilo from Rs 50 to Rs 70. Markets are abuzz with reports of acute shortage of Arhar and fears of further escalation of prices, which may settle for Rs 100 to Rs 120 if imported.
The Arhar exporters seeing an opportunity in the upcoming demand have raised the price bar from $900 to $ 1250 a tonne in the international market.
Agriculture and weather scientists blame the high heat conditions and the insect ‘Pod Borer’ for the large scale damage. Kanpur and surrounding districts such Fatehpur, Kanpur Dehat, Bundelkhand, Unnao, Kannauj are among the top producers of the lentil. Reports filtering out suggest the insect, which pierce through the grains, destroyed 40 per cent of the crop. The heat on its part contributed to loss of 20 per cent and badly affected the grains growth.
“Pod Borer damages the crop every season but this time its intensity is alarming,” said Dr Akhilesh Mishra, senior scientist at Indian Institute of Pulses Research (IIPR). “The heat and Pod Borer factor indeed has impinged on the quality and quantity rather badly,” he told HT.
The insect, the scientist tells, become active with the rise in the mercury attacks the grain eating it deep inside. If pesticides are used at the nascent stage its menace could be curtailed to an extent. “They are so small and not easily detectable. Farmers rely on the symptoms to catch up with its presence. Any delay leads to a catastrophic impact on the yield,” said Dr Mishra.
Above and constant 40 degree temperature in March—weather scientists say was six degrees above the normal in this part of calendar—has harmed the grain size, which matters the Dal Millers. Smaller grains mean they would get converted into lentils. “The machines accept grains of a certain gauge for converting them into pulse. Feedback that we have grain isn’t only smaller but feeble,” explains Tarun Jain, general secretary of Kanpur Dal Millers’ Association.
“The grains coming to us right now aren’t settling in the machines and falling off splintered,” said Girish Paliwal, former president of the association. Most of the grains are passing as cattle feed and lentil conversion isn’t more than 10 per cent. “Less production will mean an audacious attack on the family pocketbook and the trading class,” he said. The impact on the prices is visible in the whole sale market. The pulse that was settling down in an affordable range is available for Rs 70 in whole sale and Rs 75 in the retail market.