New Delhi: Andhra Pradesh on Wednesday became the fifth state to declare a drought, saying seven of its 13 districts are drought-hit. Since late August, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha have declared a drought in a total of 110 districts.

Acting on reports from district collectors and recommendations of a committee on drought, the state has identified 196 mandals (sub-districts) in seven districts as drought-affected.

The districts are Srikakulam, Prakasam, Nellore, Chittoor, Kadapa, Anantapur and Kurnool. During the June to September southwest monsoon, the state received 519.7 mm of rainfall, against the normal 549.1 mm, or a deficit of 5.4%, according to the state government. In 2014, united Andhra Pradesh recorded a deficit of 32%.

The state’s committee on drought relaxed the norms for declaring drought in some areas due to erratic rainfall, prolonged dry spells, and significant yield loss in major crops, the government order said.

Andhra Pradesh said declaring a drought will help farmers avail credit and other relief measures. Chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu has called a meeting on 3 November to discuss the drought situation and prepare an action plan, the government said.

For the entire country, the southwest monsoon recorded a deficit of 14%, with as many as 302 districts out of 640 recording a rain deficit of 20% or more. This is the second consecutive year of drought, worsening rural distress across the country; last year, the monsoon recorded a national deficit of 12%.

On Monday, Madhya Pradesh sought central assistance of 2,400 crore after declaring 40 of its 51 districts as affected by drought and pest attacks. On 22 October, Odisha, too, sought central assistance of 3,500 crore after assessing crop losses in over half a million hectares of farmland.

On 16 October, Maharashtra declared drought in 14,708 villages spread across 20 out of its 35 districts. The state is yet to seek any central assistance. As early as August, Karnataka became the first state to declare drought, seeking central assistance of 3,050 crore.

The drought in Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and other parts of the country is expected to dent the production of rain-fed crops such as pulses, whose prices have soared over the past month, alongside soyabean, cotton and coarse grains.

Several other states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Telangana and Gujarat are yet to declare drought. As many as 68 out of 71 districts in Uttar Pradesh and 23 out of 28 in Bihar recorded deficit or scanty rains this year.

In April, Prime Minister Narendra Modi increased the compensation for crop damage by 50%, and relaxed norms. Farmers in areas with at least 33% crop damage are now eligible for compensation, up from the earlier criteria of 50% damage. However, unless a state declares drought and the centre assesses the damage, none of these relief measures kick in.

The deficit rainfall will impact demand in rural India, warned a Crisil Research report released earlier this month. “Already, rural incomes are dented due to falling wage growth. Add three consecutive monsoon shocks and what you get is a significant erosion in farm income," the report said, adding that falling export prices of agricultural commodities like rice and wheat have added to the distress.

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