Maharashtra’s farm output is set to dry up as rain stays away
Prolonged dry spells and deviation in rainfall for about six weeks in July and August has led to a drop in agricultural production and productivity when compared to the state’s five-year average and the bumper crop yielded last year. The drop, which ranges between 15% and 28%, in the production of pulses, cereals and oilseeds is expected to put the farmers in further distress.
According to primary estimates collated by the agriculture department, although the sown area is equal to that sown last year or the average of the past five years, production and productivity is estimated to drop significantly. Around 148.14 lakh hectares of land was sown this year compared to the five-year average of 149 lakh hectares. But production from various crops is expected to drop to 882 lakh tonnes against the average of 1,042 lakh tonnes. The drop is more in cereals and pulses than in oilseeds.
Productivity is also expected to drop further to about 35% owing to intermittent rains. This may even lead to a rise in prices of certain commodities.
Also, it will affect farmers if their production drops significantly.
As reported by the Hindustan Times on Monday, the National Agriculture and Drought Assessment System (NADAMS) predicted a drought in many districts of Vidarbha and Marathwada. Although the state government has announced a farm loan waiver of Rs34,000 to help farmers in distress, a drop in production may make it even more difficult for them to recover input costs. Of the 1,605 farmer suicides until July this year, 536 were from eight districts of Marathwada and 737 from 11 districts of Vidarbha.
Activists said the drop is likely to take hit the Vidarbha farmer the most. “Most of the Vidarbha districts have recorded poor rainfall, resulting in scarcity of drinking water. We are worried about farmers recovering their input costs. For instance, the production of Udid is estimated to drop to 1.5 quintal an acre against the average production of four quintals and with the fall in the market rate, it will be difficult for farmers to cover their costs,” said Vijay Jawandhia, a farm activist from Vidarbha.
Farmers’ organisations said the waiver announced by the government is likely to be equal to the losses farmers are likely to sustain this year, compelling them to take loans again next year.
According to officials from the agriculture department, the situation is expected to improve subsequently. “The estimates are primary and taken on the basis standing crop and at the early stage of the sowing. We have received satisfactory rain in the past few weeks and expect productivity to improve subsequently. Last year, too, our first estimate had predicted the production of tur to be five lakh tonnes, which improved to 22 lakh tonnes,” the official said.
In a report sent to the Central government, the agriculture department stated that as per the drought manual, many talukas have witness deviation in the rainfall and it may result in the reduction of production.