New Delhi: Lashing rains, hail and strong winds have damaged standing wheat in northern parts of the country in the last few days, but with a forecast of better weather, farmers and officials saya bumper harvest is still on the cards.
Wheat has been flattened in parts of Punjab and Haryana—states that account for about a third of production—while some low-lying areas have been flooded.Rajasthan has also been hit.
Nearly 6,000 hectares out of the 3.4 million hectares under the grain in Punjab, and 8,000 hectares out of the 2.3 million hectares in Haryana have been hit, according to B Mishra of the Haryana-based Directorate of Wheat Research.
Weather officials offered farmers some cheer, saying the above normal rainfall was likely to ease off from Wednesday.
“It is a bit unusual for March, but this type of situation can happen during the winter months,” said a meteorological department official in Pune.
“There is an old saying that after March 15 even a rain of gold is not desirable for wheat,” late on Sunday.
Officials had ratcheted up the yield estimates for this season to 74 million tonnes from 72.5mt after scattered rains in February kept temperatures favourably cool.
Mishra said the crop should still touch at least 74mt this year, from last year’s 69.4mt.
“Even if the crop is wiped out in a few pockets, it is not going to matter in the nation’s balance sheet,” he said. “30% of the crop is already harvested, mainly from the central regions.”
The area under the wheat crop has increased to 28.5 million hectares this year from 26.5 million a year ago.
Only moderate rainfall has fallen in eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh, which contributes more than a third of the total harvest, Mishra said.
“The crop is also better this year in Bihar, Bengal and Assam,” he added.
“What we now need is warm sunshine,” Dharminder Singh Gill, a farmer in Tajpur village in Punjab’s Ludhiana district said, at the weekend as he sat next to his flour mill amid rolling wheat fields. “The crop will be fine if the bad weather passes in the next two to three days.”
But others added a word of caution: a leading grains trader said the crop would shrink and other farmers were not so upbeat.
“Some damage has certainly been done to the wheat crop in Punjab and Haryana because of hailstorm and rains. I am looking at a crop close to 71 million tonnes,” said D.P. Singh, president of the All India Grain Traders Association.
“More than the rain, it’s the hailstorm and wind which have hit the crop,” said farmer Gurmeet Singh Sekhon, also near Ludhiana, who said he had lost 30% of his crop sown over three hectares.