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Saturday, Aug 17, 2019

Unseasonal rain brings destruction to crops in north

Millions of farmers grow wheat during winter, which fetches them high prices because it is a key commodity procured by the government at federally fixed support prices.

delhi Updated: Apr 19, 2019 08:12 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
New Delhi/Karnal/Chandigarh
Millions of farmers grow wheat during winter, which fetches them high prices because it is a key commodity procured by the government at federally fixed support prices.Pardeep Pandit/HT Photo
Millions of farmers grow wheat during winter, which fetches them high prices because it is a key commodity procured by the government at federally fixed support prices.Pardeep Pandit/HT Photo
         

Rain and hailstorms have flattened ready-to-harvest fields of wheat, among other crops, in key states, prompting the Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan governments to order surveys to assess the extent of damage, but officials are sanguine that output of the main winter staple will still be robust.

It could take up to a week to determine the extent of crop damage, but according to information received by HT from state-level agriculture department officers, Rajasthan seems to have borne the brunt.

Millions of farmers grow wheat during winter, which fetches them high prices because it is a key commodity procured by the government at federally fixed support prices.

“Although the surveys are still on, eye estimates suggest extensive damage to wheat in areas like Ganganagar and Kota division. Hailstorm and rains have damaged various crops in about 26 districts,” said BS Rathore, the chief statistical officer of Rajasthan’s agriculture department.

Rain, thunderstorms and lightning struck parts of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat Maharashtra, and Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana between Monday and Wednesday, killing at least 60 people, at the start of a summer in which, experts said, such weather events could be fairly common.

Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday ordered a statewide “girdawari”, or a revenue department assessment, to determine crop damage.

In most of these states, winter grown wheat is ready for harvest. “We had expected 18 million tonnes of wheat output. There have been reports of damage to wheat in many places,” said Balwinder Singh Sandhu, the agriculture commissioner of Punjab.

According to a preliminary report prepared by the agriculture department, crops have been hit in scattered areas of Amritsar, Barnala, Fatehgarh Sahib, Ferozpur, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Mansa, Muktsar, Mohali, Patiala, Pathankot, Sangrur, Ropar and Tarn Taran.

In Rajasthan, apart from wheat, late-sown varieties of mustard, isabgol and gram have also been damaged, Rathore said.

The agriculture ministry had been expecting wheat production to cross a record 100 million tonne in 2018-19, aided by good weather conditions. Wheat output stood at a record 99.70 million tonne in 2017-18.

On average, Punjab experienced 15 mm of rainfall in two days. “We are keeping our fingers crossed. We hope rainfall has not caused much damage. We are waiting for the crop to get proper sunshine for a few days,” said Punjab agriculture director Sutantar Kumar Airi.

Despite the rough weather, Gyanendra Pratap Singh, director of the Karnal-based Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research, said he was expecting wheat production to be over 105 million tonne as weather conditions throughout the winter had been favourable.

“There are no reports of any damage to wheat in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, which is a very large grower too. So I expect overall output to be good,” Singh said.

First Published: Apr 19, 2019 08:08 IST

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