Hazy picture

The agriculture ministry and the Indian Meteorological Department have given contradictory statements on how crops have failed in the past year

Published: Sunday 15 February 1998

there seems to be a lot of confusion about the crop situation in the country. While north India experienced excess rainfall, there has been below normal rainfall in the south. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (icar) says that the target wheat output of 68.5 million tonnes for the 1998 rabi (winter) season will be met. However, the Crop Weather Watch Group (cwwg) of the agriculture ministry has a different opinion. The cwwg says that due to intermittent rainfall in winter, the total area under wheat cultivation has declined from 42.4 million hectare (ha) last year to 24.63 million ha in the current rabi season. A recent report of the cwwg also warned of the presence of wheat diseases in parts of Punjab, Haryana and certain other states. The decline in cultivated area is not limited to wheat, but other rabi crops as well, except pulses.

The latest information collated by the agriculture ministry indicates that wheat sowing has been delayed in about 20 per cent of the normal acreage due to abnormal weather conditions. In Punjab, farmers have been advised to increase the dosage of fertilisers by one and a half to two times. Delhi's Mother Dairy vegetable outlets display notices saying onion crops were affected by untimely rains and misty conditions. "Due to the high moisture content, new diseases, pests and insects could be a problem," says Mangla Rai, deputy director general, Crop Sciences, at the icar.

Opinion is divided whether the target for foodgrains will be met. Says icar director general R S Paroda: "We will meet our production targets." He, however, did not explain how that would be possible. "It will be difficult to achieve the target of 12.8 million tonnes of wheat production," says R N Gupta, Punjab's financial commissioner (development). The late grown crop is going to be stunted, and tilling is going to be affected.

The Satellite Meteorology (sm) department, which coordinates with icar says that the monsoon became active only in December causing crop failure in Central India and delaying the sowing of rabi crop. Interestingly, sm, which predicts short time weather forecasts, had predicted about three to four days in advance of this prolonged winter rainfall. Sources say sm had also informed 73 agro advisory units and 27 agricultural universities all over the country so that farmers could take necessary action, regarding sowing of crops. It is learnt that heeding the advice, some farmers did not sow in winter. In fact, sources say that the agriculture minister had told icar scientists not to create panic.

In reality, even in beginning of monsoon, the rainfall was not evenly spread all over the country. Media reported fluctuations like excessive, unseasonal and deficient rainfall in various parts of the country. Large areas in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu received deficient rains, affecting Kharif output. According to the icar, excessive rains have caused havoc in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. In these states the rabi crop which was sown in early December is already under the threat of a possible outbreak of diseases and pests due to high level of humidity.

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.