Maharashtra unseasonal rains likely to damage onions, wheat, grapes

Along with a drop in price, the conditions will bolster pest attacks, farmers say

By Himanshu Nitnaware
Published: Monday 06 March 2023
The IMD predicts the weather to continue for the next two days. Representative photo: iStock.

Unseasonal rains added worries to Maharashtra’s farmers who are already struggling to find fair prices for their produce. At least nine talukas of Nashik district were reportedly affected by rains that started around 2 am on March 6, 2023, and continued through early morning. Balgan, Kalwan, Niphad, Chandwad, Dindori, Yeola, Sinnar, Deola and Malegaon are the talukas affected.

Standing crops on 2,685 hectares have been affected due to unseasonal rains that lashed parts of the district on March 6 and 7. This includes wheat on 1,745 hectares in Niphad taluka alone, according to an initial assessment. Some 191 villages and 2,798 farmers have been impacted, the data showed.

Also read: Dry to deluge: Incessant rain a threat to Marathwada farmers

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) registered rainfall of seven millimetres and predicted the rains to continue till March 8. Farmers claim that the rains will lead to heavy losses. Rather than worrying about protecting their crops from pests, many started letting them rot in the open.

Bharat Dighole, state president of the Onion Growers’ Association, said farmers were already struggling to fetch a fair price for onions. They have been protesting to demand better rates.

“Onion rates dropped to Rs 2 and 4 a kilo which does not cover the input cost. The unseasonal rains has only added to the woes,” he said.

Farmers are facing a tough time and the IMD predicts the weather to continue for the next two days, Dighole said.

“Such weather conditions are ideal for pests and diseases. It is likely that thrips, white fly and other pests will attack the crops,” he said. Even if the rains stop, the moisture in the air will result in forming dew over the onions and other crops, leading to spots, he said.

The spots on the produce will make it unsuitable for selling to the farmers, the farmer noted.

Farmers said other crops such as grapes, wheat, gram and corn are also in danger.

Mahesh Kinwat, a farmer from Dindori taluka, said his ready-to-harvest wheat collapsed overnight due to heavy rains.

“I found my ongoing harvest submerged in water in the morning, while the standing crop collapsed. I was hoping to earn money and use it for my son’s wedding, due in three months,” he said.

Kinwat said he has no option other than postponing the wedding.

Also read: Water, Marathwada women’s woe: Weather vagaries force farmers to sell lands

Vasant Dhikale, president of Draksha Vigyan Mandal, said the rains will severely damage the grape harvest.

“It is the peak harvesting season for grapes and the rains are likely to cause cracking on the fruit and eventually damaging it,” Dhikale said.

The damages are unclear and it will take several more days to figure it out. The extent of the same can be fully understood only once the harvesting resumes, he said.

The current export rate, which stands at Rs 80 per kilogram, will crash to Rs 10 and Rs 20 per kg in the local market, Dhikale said. “Vineyard owners will suffer heavily in upcoming days,” he added.

The conditions continued to be cloudy through the day, accompanied by light showers. It is too soon to understand the area affected due to rains, Vivek Sonawane, superintendent agriculture officer, Nashik, told Down To Earth.

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