Hailstorms and unseasonal rains for the third straight week across several states have destroyed ripening winter-sown crops in several states, delaying harvests and leading to fears of a fall in output.
The widespread rains — caused by a series of converging weather patterns — could push up food prices due to shortages, potentially disrupting a long spell of low inflation, while the country may not have a bumper crop, as was being expected.
The wholesale inflation rate in February, released on Monday, dropped for the fourth straight month, as food and fuel prices declined. The bad weather has hit wheat, chickpea, red gram, rapeseed, potatoes, onions, tomatoes and grapes, in several states including Maharashtra, UP, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat. The storms could also affect the quality of wheat in Madhya Pradesh and UP, two large growers. Just last month, the government had said it expected record production of wheat, chickpea and rapeseed.
The Centre could consider relief measures once states finish mapping their losses. Teams from the National Disaster Response Force have been dispatched to the affected states to assess damage with state agriculture officials, an official said.
Rains typically hamper the movement of food trucks, exacerbating shortages in local markets and spiking prices. Vegetable, which are perishable, are more vulnerable to weather shocks, Ajay Singh, the CEO of Comtrade, a commodities firm said. With a lean season ahead – between winter harvests and the summer sowing season – high food prices could hit households, he said.
“Wherever hailstorm has affected crops, the government will give relief to farmers,” chief minister of MP, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, said on Twitter. Shortly after a good spell of rains, north India saw another active western disturbance, a stormy weather phenomenon, from March 6. This caused a ‘secondary’ cyclonic activity that brought more rains over Rajasthan, Haryana and UP. The two weather system locked into each other, triggering a spell of bad weather. Alongside, a cyclonic circulation drifting in from Arabian Sea off Gujarat settled over several central states.The weather shock could force India to import more of oilseeds for cooking oil, a necessary household item. India, the world’s largest buyer of edible oil, meets 60% of its annual demand of 18-19 million tonne through imports. More imports could push prices higher.