Unseasonal rain and hailstorms that have hit Himachal over the past fortnight are not only giving sleepless nights to farmers but the freak weather has washed away the prospects of a good crop this time.
With farmers and orchardists suffering significant losses due to damaged crops, a central government team led by agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh and health minister JP Nadda will assess the losses to crops in the state on Tuesday.
The damage has been most severe to the stonefruit crop in the Kullu, Shimla and Mandi regions. More than 80 % of stonefruits including apricots, almonds and plums have been damaged by the freak weather that lowered the temperature at the time of blooming.
After the inclement weather took its toll on stonefruits it's the turn of apple growers to worry lot as the declining temperatures and heavy rainfall could hamper fruit pollination since orchards in the lower belts are about to bloom.
Rain and cloudy weather usually disturbs the natural pollinating agents, particularly the insects and honey bees that are the main pollinating agents. The losses to the horticultural sector have been pegged at more than Rs 30 crore
The heavy rain that has inundated farmlands has also adversely impacted the wheat and vegetable crops in the state. Wheat is sown in both the middle and low attitude areas with a total of 3,58,000 hectares under cultivation.
Farmers in the state are now seeking relief from the government for the losses. Paras Ram, a farmer in the Nagrota Bagwan area of Kangra district, whose standing wheat crop was flattened by the unseasonal rains, said: "The government should take immediate measures to offer financial relief to the farming community. The sunny days last week had raised our hopes but the bad weather has again returned to haunt us. This time around the losses are huge and yields are likely to fall to one-half of those recorded last year."
The heavy showers have also destroyed vegetable crops in several areas of the state with losses estimated at Rs 300 crore. The rainfall had also resulted in the spread of yellow rust in parts of Bilaspur, Kangra Mandi and Una districts.
Pritam Chand, a vegetable grower in a village near Dharamsala, said the pea and potato crops in his fields have been badly hit by the heavy rain.
With unseasonal rain and hailstorms wrecking crops the Himachal government is looking towards the central government for providing compensation to affected farmers. The state will hand over a memorandum seeking relief to the central government team when it visits Simla on Tuesday. The state government has pegged losses caused by snow hailstorms and rain at over Rs 1,000 crore.
Heavy snowfall recent months had also caused extensive damage to power transmission cables and roads in parts of Shimla, Kullu, Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti districts as well as in interior areas of Chamba and Sirmaur districts.