Rain puts dampener on Punjab agriculture department’s all-time high wheat yield estimate
Sporadic rainfall accompanied by strong winds across Punjab for two consecutive days has left the farmers worried as it has put a dampener on the state agriculture department’s estimates of an all-time high yield of wheat at 51 quintals per hectare.
The rainfall occurred at a time when the crop in the majority of areas is in harvesting stage. Moreover, grain development and maturing of crop had got delayed by a fortnight because of fall in temperatures last month.
While the state received an average 15 mm rainfall in two days, some districts like Fatehgarh Sahib, Muktsar, Pathankot, Patiala and Nawanshahr were affected more having received 44mm, 25mm, 20mm, 29.5mm and 28mm rain. Hailstorm also hit some pockets in Pathankot, Mukerian, Dasuya, Muktsar, Bathinda, Fatehgarh Sahib and Patiala, leading to extensive crop damage.
“We are keeping our fingers crossed. What we can say at this stage is that rainfall did not cause much damage to the crop and the yield will not fall below our expectations. We are waiting for the weather to get stable and the crop to get proper sunshine for a few days,” said state agriculture director Sutantar Kumar Airi.
He said the cost of harvesting with combines will go up by at least 20% in places where the crop has been lodged.
Also, due to early polling in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the farmers are facing shortage of farm labour and the combine machines. Harmeet Singh Kadian of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Kadian) said the workers who used to charge ₹4,500 per acre are demanding ₹8,000 per acre for harvesting the crop.
A senior Food Corporation of India (FCI) official said they are worried over the likely fall in yield. “Let us wait for the things to settle down and weather conditions to get normal.”
On Wednesday, chief minister Amarinder Singh ordered the revenue department to conduct a ‘girdawari’ to assess the loss to the crop.
As per the agriculture department’s preliminary report, the crop was lodged due to rainfall and hailstorm in some parts of Amritsar, Barnala, Fatehgarh Sahib, Ferozpur, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Mansa, Muktsar, Mohali, Patiala, Pathankot, Sangrur, Rupnagar and Tarn Taran districts.
Balbir Singh Rajewal, the head of the Bharitya Kisan Union (BKU), said the loss to wheat crop is being downplayed by the state agencies. He said the crop was lodged extensively in many places and it would be difficult to harvest it even mechanically. “We demand a genuine assessment of the loss by the state government and the farmers be compensated adequately,” he said.
Umraj Singh, a farmer from Amritsar, said the late sown varieties of wheat have suffered more damage.
In the previous years, the maximum yield touched 50 quintal per hectare and the state’s all-time high production was 178 lakh tonne. This year, it was expected to cross 180 lakh tonne. Wheat is sown over 35.02 lakh hectares this time against the last year’s 35.12 lakh hectares.
Increase in moisture content troubles farmers
The farmers, who have brought their harvested crop to the grain markets are finding it difficult to sell it due to increased moisture content.
Even the government agencies are not procuring wheat due to high moisture, leaving the farmers with no option but to wait.
District food and supply controller, Patiala, Harsharanjeet Singh said the moisture content is much higher than the stipulated level.
“We can’t start the procurement process till the moisture level comes down,” he said.
Also, the agriculture department has instructed farmers not to harvest immature crop and wait for better weather conditions.
AAP seeks relief for farmers
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has demanded 100% compensation to farmers for crop damage due to untimely rain and storm.
In a statement, AAP MLA and state kisan wing chief Kultar Singh Sandhwan said the party would submit memorandum to chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh through the deputy commissioners to press their demand. “Untimely rain has wreaked havoc on farmers, flattening wheat crop in many parts of the state,” he said.
The party has also asked the government to amend the law pertaining to mode of payment of compensation to make it more farmer-friendly, besides an increase in the existing per acre compensation of ₹5,400.
(Inputs from Patiala and Ludhiana)
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