After two droughts and near-absence of winter rain, farmers across the north, central and western parts were pinning hope on the 2016 rabi harvest to recoup.
However, they’ve been hit by a sudden bout of rain, accompanied by strong winds and hailstorms in some places since last Friday. Farmers in most places had watered their standing crop for one last time before harvest, particularly the early sown varieties.
The saving grace so far is that the showers have not been heavy and the sequence was broken by bright sunshine, which helps in faster draining of water. Hail has also been limited to some pockets. Even so, there is alarm, as last year’s unseasonal rain and hail damaged the standing crop on 19 million hectares, resulting in a spate of suicides.
Congress party Vice President Rahul Gandhi wanted to raise the issue in the Lok Sabha through an adjournment notice, a decision on which is pending. The government had meetings of senior officials and is ready to despatch teams to assess the damage.
The standing crop in the districts of Hisar, Sirsa, Jind, Bhiwani, Sonepat, Fatehbad, Karnal and Rohtak have been impacted. A senior official in the agriculture department said preliminary surveys show wheat yields might fall by up to 25 per cent and the harvest could be delayed. A dry spell in the next few days might compensate but not suffice. Wheat is grown on 2.4 mn ha in the state.
Hail and sporadic downpour in the state’s eastern region over the past couple of days have hit standing rabi crops, especially wheat. In the western and central parts, the downpour has impacted gram, pea, mustard, wheat and also horticultural crops like mango and potato. The largest damage is reported from Allahabad, Mirzapur, Pratapgrah, Varanasi, Balrampur and Gonda districts.
As many as 22 districts have been impacted by hail and unseasonal rain. Standing crop in 1,086 villages across 129 tehsils were impacted, revenue Minister Rampal Singh said on Monday. He said a survey has been ordered and an interim compensation of Rs 5,000-15,000 a ha announced. The opposition Congress party is demanding suspension of loan recovery in affected areas.
Beside wheat, the rains have damaged the mango and grape crop. The highest damage has been in Nagpur, Wardha, Akola, Yavatmal and Amaravati districts of Maharashtra.
In Gujarat, a second spell of rain after the showers of last week has led to a falling off of unripened mangoes, where “the current spell of rain is not good as the fruits are in a growing stage and heavy wind might dislodge it from the trees,” said A R Pathak, vice-chancellor of Junagadh Agriculture University.