Severe drought in Marathwada over the past year has brought crop production across its eight districts down by nearly 70%, figures compiled by the Aurangabad divisional office show.
This is one of the biggest slumps faced by farmers in this central Maharashtra region in recent years, and their claims having no earnings over the past one year are ringing true.
As farmers deal with agricultural slump, the bigger challenge for the administration is tackling the shortage of water in the region until the monsoon begins, with the total water stock in Marathwada’s dams now down to just 2% .
The administration will now only focus on supplying drinking water for all in the region, senior officials said. The live water storage - or the amount of water that can be used - in its three big dams is down to 116 million cubic metre (mcum), down from the 134.28 mcum last week. The remaining eight dams are on dead storage level .
Kharif crops such as pulses, followed by cereals and oil seeds have taken a hit. The production of urad, moong and tur dal per hectare has come down by 78% , 79% and 64%, compared to the average production of these pulses in the region in the last five years.
Soyabean is down by 68% and groundnut by 58%; cereals jowari and bajari have also come down by 72% and 66% respectively. The yield of the region’s biggest cash crop - cotton - in a good year brings money to farmers, but this has come down to 2.74 quintals a hectare. The last five-year average of cotton production worked out to 7.15 quintals a hectare.
As Marathwada leads in the production of pulses in the state, this slump is expected to bring down overall supply in the market and jack up prices in the coming months. The overall decline in foodgrains so far, according to the third estimate sent by the state to the Centre includes 41% reduction in cereals and 19% for oilseeds.
“The rabi crop output in Marathwada is likely to throw up similar losses of up to 70%, if not more.
The kharif crop compilation done recently, comparing the average of the last five years, shows an overall loss in the range of 65-70%. The farmers in the region have technically lost their last two kharif and rabi crops,’’ said PD Lonare, superintending agriculture officer, Aurangabad division.
On water scarcity, divisional commissioner Umakant Dangat said, “We will have to manage ourselves with the available water in dams, dead storage and ground water in requisitioned wells and borewells. Appropriate decisions [regarding further cuts] will be taken as per local conditions to ensure drinking water to all.’’
Last year, in this week, the region was battling drought, but the water storage level in all dams stood at 12% . Today, the water storage across Marathwada’s big and small dams is 2%. Only three of its big dams – Lower Dudhana, Vishnupuri and Yeldari have live water storage.
With evaporation losses up to 35% , it is likely that Vishnupuri that supplies water to Nanded city may also go dry. Currently, Vishnupuri has live water storage of 4%, with just 3 mcum water.