Another spell of stormy weather is set to sweep several food-bowl states between March 28 and April 2, covering a fourth of the country and potentially worsening the impact of recent hailstorms that have devastated 16% of winter-sown crops, according revised estimates.
The thundery spell could prolong recovery and also ruin crops in fresh areas — from north to east.
A fresh western disturbance — a windy system that typically sets off from the Mediterranean — is building up over Afghanistan and is headed for north India. It could dump golf ball-size hail over parts of Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and western Uttar Pradesh on March 29 and 30, a Met department forecast said.
It is also likely to trigger a cyclonic pattern over south Rajasthan and Gujarat, drenching these states in rain till April 2, while storms rising from the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal could bring thunderstorms and squalls to parts of Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand, Assam and Meghalaya. Several weather glitches, in fact, are set to fuse beginning Saturday.
Hailstorms in February and March crushed crops in 10 million hectares of a total of 61 million hectares sown this winter, the agriculture ministry said on Thursday.
The freak weather, coupled with a partial drought last summer, could see foodgrain output drop by 3.2% to 257.07 million tonnes this year, compared to 265.57 million tonnes last year, according to the ministry. Pulses are expected to come down 6-8%.
Damage to crops could stoke food prices. Consumer prices rose 5.37% last month from a year earlier, according to government data, up from January’s 5.19%.
“The wheat in my farm still looks green, but if you take a closer look, the grains look grey, not light brown as they should. Buyers will not be impressed,” Ram Narain Mina, a farmer from Ganganagar in Rajasthan, told HT.
Such “discoloration” due to the hailstorms has impacted 1.7 million wheat hectares in Rajasthan, the worst-hit state so far, the ministry said. UP is second with losses in 2.6 million hectares, followed by Haryana (1.8 million hectares).
“Once the rain intensity reduces on March 31, the wet weather will spill over into April with light rain observed on April 1-2 in the plains of north India,” private forecaster Skymet said.