Business News/ Industry / Agriculture/  Unseasonal rains might have spoilt 3 mn tonne rabi crops
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New Delhi: Erratic weather in the recent past has caused significant crop damage in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, destroying 10-20% of the crop.

Rahul Chauhan of Igrain India said about 10% damage in chana crops was seen at the harvest stage, while the losses to wheat crops are about 15-20%. “I don’t see any loss in mustard crop," he said.

However, some experts estimate mustard crops have been damaged by nearly 10%. “It is too early to estimate crop damage as the weather bureau predicts rainfall and hailstorm over the next 2-3 days," said Ajay Kedia, director of Kedia Commodity Comtrade Pvt Ltd.

Andhra Pradesh also suffered widespread damage to maize, paddy, chilli and other horticulture crops, he added.

Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana are considered leading wheat producing states, while chana is majorly grown in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Rajasthan.

Rajasthan is India’s largest mustard producing states, and Andhra Pradesh is one of the key growers of paddy, maize and chilli among others

“Nearly 50% of crops are yet to be harvested, and the bad weather forecast by the weather bureau may cause further harm to the already affected crops stranded in the fields," a commodity analyst said on condition of anonymity.

Unseasonal rains and hailstorms have caused heavy damage to standing crops in several states across India. However, the agriculture ministry is optimistic that overall production would not be affected.

“There could be about 1.5-2 million tonne (mt) damage in wheat crops, and 700,000 tonnes-1 million tonne losses in mustard crops, which is unlikely to shake India’s total rabi foodgrains output estimate of 170 mt in 2022-23 (July-Jun)," an official said.

“Crop loss in the current rabi season is unlikely to be more than 3 mt due to a sudden change in weather," he added.

The crop assessment team of agriculture ministry has been sent to states to examine the ground situation and the picture of damage to rabi crops will be clear by mid-April," the official added.

Farmers and traders, on the other hand, say that excess rainfall in many states has caused considerable loss.

The India Meteorological Department sees a fresh bout of rainfall and hailstorm over parts of northwest and central India, including Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh till 31 March, due to a cyclonic circulation over south-western Rajasthan.

“This may result not only in a production drop but also raise concern over quality. In view of the weather conditions, the yield of major rabi crops such as wheat, chana and mustard is likely to decline at least by 10%. However, it depends on the region, and which crop it is," said Abhishek Raghuwanshi, a farmer based in Madhya Pradesh’s Vidisha.

Downpour and hailstorm in March have caused a delay in harvest operations, resulting in lukewarm supply. At Nimar and Indore mandi, the arrival of chana was 25,000 quintals, while farmers brought about 22,000 quintals wheat in both mandis of Indore.

In the Indore mandis, today wheat was traded in the range of 1,850-2,600 a quintal, while prices of chana have been quoted at 5,250-5,300 per quintal, according to spot market traders. Prices of mustard seed were at 5,725-5,750 per quintal in Rajasthan’s Kota, a key market, and arrivals were pegged at 500,000 tonne in the state, according to the spot trade sources.

“As the heavy rains and hailstorms disrupt the harvest of key crops like mustard, chana and wheat, inflation concerns will remain high as of now. The arrival of new crops is seen to be delayed by about 2 weeks, and the output is estimated to drop by 8–10%. This will keep the agribusiness market tight and firm in the coming weeks," said Ajay Kedia, director of Kedia Commodity Comtrade Pvt Ltd.

Queries sent to the agriculture ministry regarding financial assistance to farmers for crop losses remained unanswered till press time.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Puja Das
Puja Das is a New Delhi based policy reporter covering food, farm, fertiliser, water, and climate policies for Mint. Puja reports on farmers' distress and how the agriculture sector is impacting India's rural economy and policy initiatives to help meet the pledges made at COP27. Puja holds a post-graduation degree in Broadcast Journalism from the Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media, Bangalore.
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Updated: 30 Mar 2023, 12:15 AM IST
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