DROUGHT conditions triggered a pest
attack in 12 paddy growing districts of
Orissa. The swarming caterpillars
(Spodoptera mauritia) ruined crops on
89,000 hectares (ha) of the four million
ha under paddy cultivation in the state.
Sambalpur district was the worst affected; paddy crops on nearly 33,000 ha were destroyed by the pest, called leda poka in Orissa. In Malkangiri district, farms were also attacked by stem borer pests and bacterial leaf blight disease.
"This year June was dry. There were a few days of heavy rain in July and a prolonged drought after that. The drought suits the pests. The problem is pronounced in areas that do not get irrigation water," said Saroj Mohanty, an activist working with farmers in western Orissa.
Ashok Pradhan, a farmer in Sambalpur district who harvested 18.75 quintals of rice last year, said if there are no rains his yields would be nowhere near what he harvested last year. Only a part of the 7.3 ha he owns is irrigated. To help the farmers tide over the crisis, the government announced pesticide subsidies and spent Rs 1.44 crore on it. But farmers said the help is insufficient. "In some places only 10 litres of pesticide was given for the whole village and one sprayer allocated to one panchayat comprising 10-15 villages. The shortage will create more problems," said Jagannath Chatterjee of the nonprofit Living Farms. Balaram Bhoi, a 42- year-old farmer in Sambalpur district, consumed the pesticide he was to spray in his farms. A debt of Rs 35,000 drove him to suicide. Mohanty said there are reports of farmers migrating from neighbouring Jharsuguda district to Raipur in Chhattisgarh as their crops have been destroyed. "There is no work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme this time of the year, so more people are likely to migrate to cities," he said.
Officials said there were no reports of farmers' distress. They said the pest problem has been controlled in 70,000 ha and that remaining farmland where paddy crop was lost will be used to grow pulses and oilseeds. The extent of damage to paddy will be assessed after harvesting, they added.
"What we know is that farmers have availed of the subsidies and the problem is almost over," said Babaji Giri, additional director of state agriculture department
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
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.