Dry spell leaves Beed farmers in a lurch
Sharecroppers Mohan Narvade (44) and son Sandeep (27) are at a loss over the state of their 10-acre land in the tiny village of Pimpalner in Beed district. The long dry spell in the monsoon has dried up the five acres of cotton crop and two acres of soyabean crop that they planted at the beginning of the Kharif season. They have begun to uproot their standing crop to avoid further loss.
They are not alone. Like them, several farmers in the region have decided to focus on the upcoming Rabi season crops (which comes after the monsoon), rather than invest more money in the Kharif crop.
Narvade already owes Rs 1.2 lakh to Beed district cooperative bank, and the failure of the Kharif crop has added to his woes. He said he was promised Rs 22,000 in compensation from the crop insurance scheme but is yet to get any money. “How will we survive?” he asked.
As the drought in Maharashtra’s Marathwada region enters its 37th week, rainfall deficiency in Beed, one of the region’s worst-hit districts, has risen to 51% on July 24 from 40% on July 17. This, even as other parts of the state, like Mumbai, are receiving high rainfall.
According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the cumulative rainfall deficiency for Beed stands at 41% between June 1 and July 24. All eight districts of Marathwada face a 34% rainfall deficiency for the same period.
Narvade, who spent Rs 34,000 to sow soyabean and Rs 6,500 to uproot the crop, is contemplating selling his farm land.
“Because of the prolonged drought and inadequate rainfall, no one is ready to buy our land. The few who are interested are offering much less than the market price,” said son, Sandeep.
Another farmer, Baban Parbhale, has uprooted four acres of soyabean crop. Another acre of maize crop has dried up, he said, and is now fodder for cattle.
“I have uprooted the crop without investing more as I have to save money for Rabi sowing,” said Parbhale (47), who said that he will sow sorghum (jowar) by the middle of next month, as it is drought-resistant.
Not surprisingly, the struggles of the people of Beed city show no signs of easing. The municipal corporation releases water only once in 15 days. In some parts of the city, such as Kalegalli and Dhondipura, it’s worse: water is released once only in 20 days.
“The state agriculture department has advised farmers to take intercrop of tur and bajara to minimise Kharif loss. Tur (split pigeon peas) and bajara (millet) are both drought-resistant. Along with that, farmers can sow jowar after August 20 to avoid further losses,” said Vijay Ghawate, joint director of agriculture, Maharashtra.
Arun Gutte, an agronomist at the Regional Agricultural Extension Education Centre in Ambajogai, said inadequate rainfall was the reason behind the stunted growth of crops. “The height of cotton should ideally be over 1.5 feet after one-and-a-half months of sowing. However, it stands at barely half a foot. Such stunted crops are susceptible to disease and pest attacks, so farmers are inclined to uproot them.”
If the region does not get adequate rainfall by August 5, it will be difficult to save the kharif crop, he added.
With the cotton, soyabean and maize crops beginning to wilt, things are looking bleak not just in the Pimplaner cluster, but across most of parched Marathwada.