A storm is brewing in India’s food bowl as farmers, reeling under unprecedented crop loss because of unseasonal rain and hailstorms, face a double whammy after the met office predicted a weak monsoon on Wednesday.
Lower than average rainfall for the second consecutive year in Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra could trim output as nearly 60% of summer-sown areas do not have assured irrigation, though kharif crops such as paddy, lentils, sugarcane, spices, mangoes and oilseeds account for nearly half of India’s food harvest.
The forecast set off alarms in Uttar Pradesh, where wheat fields ripe with rabi or winter-sown crop were blighted by spells of storms in 67 districts over the past three months, triggering 62 farmer suicides and shock deaths.
The state’s estimate puts the crop loss at Rs 6,677.45 crore.
Officials said the state government would prepare a drought relief programme following the grim prediction for the June-September rainy season.
Neighbouring Haryana has witnessed 11 farmer deaths so far after freak weather forced an estimated 8% drop in wheat production compared to 2014 when the state harvested 118 lakh metric tonnes of the major staple crop.
The government would have to provide heavily-subsidised electricity to help farmers run pumps to cultivate summer crops such as paddy, which require a steady supply of water.
The Punjab government’s assessment says the state has suffered 75 to 100% crop loss and wheat production could fall by 7% against last year’s output.
Maharashtra has announced an estimated 31% foodgrain production loss and 88% in oilseeds because of rainy winters and parched summers over the past couple of years.
The state’s agriculture and relief and rehabilitation department said 141 farmers have committed suicide between January and March this year, adding to the woes of the government saddled with drought-linked farm deaths in the Vidarbha region.
In Bihar, chief minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday announced an amount of Rs 1,764.35 crore as farm input subsidy to farmers. The announcement came after six farmers tried to set themselves ablaze in Bhagalpur district on April 14.
“I have a bank loan of nearly Rs 2 lakh to repay. I was hoping for a good harvest but the rain ruined all,” said Sangita, who tried to commit suicide.