Several thousand hectares of crops stand destroyed
Even as a team of experts gears up to study the situation of droughts in Maharashtra, heavy unseasonal rains and hailstorms have damaged an estimated 88,000 hectares of standing crops and orchards in the last few days. Nashik, Jalgaon, Dhule, Nandurbar and Sangli are the worst-affected districts.
In Nashik, 38,000 hectares of grape crops have been completely damaged. Subhash Arve, vice president of Maharashtra’s grape-producing farmers’ body, said that a drop of 25 to 30 per cent in production is expected. He added that damaged grape vines are likely to be attacked by diseases, causing a further drop in production.
The Khandesh region, comprising the districts of Jalgaon, Dhule and Nandurbar have collectively reported crop damages of 50,000 hectares. Other crops which have suffered extensive damage include pomegranate, papaya, onion, wheat and chickpea.
Farmers are already facing a dual crisis, brought on by a deficient monsoon and similar hailstorms in February and March this year. On December 13, farmers from Nashik district blocked traffic on the Mumbai-Agra highway, demanding a complete loan waiver and fresh interest-free loans for the next crop season.
CM offers new insurance policy
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who visited Nashik district to review the damage, announced temporary relief from loan repayment, ordering the administration to not press for loan installments for now. He also said that a new insurance scheme for orchard crops, that will compensate farmers according to the cost of cultivation, will have to be drawn up to provide long-term relief to farmers.
An announcement to this effect is expected during the ongoing winter session of the State Assembly in Nagpur.
While the Met Department said that the current spell of rains and hail is likely to disperse soon, it warned of more extreme weather in January 2015.
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