Rain of misery for Punjab farmers
Chandigarh/Jalandhar/Bathinda September 23:
Moderate to heavy rain in Punjab caused substantial damage to standing Kharif crops that include paddy, cotton and maize.
Reports of heavy rain have come in from Faridkot, Bathinda, Mansa, Barnala, Ludhiana, Ropar, Mohali, Nawanshahr, Patiala and Ludhiana. The sharp showers are bound to affect the quality and quantity of yield.
The lingering monsoon would delay harvesting of standing crops and also cause a substantial increase in the moisture levels in the grains. Farmers fear that discolouration of grain would set in if rains did not stop in the next 24 hours. Agencies do not allow procurement of paddy with grain containing more than 17 per cent moisture and 5 per cent discoloration.
Reports of flattening of standing crops due to heavy showers have also come in from villages in Chandigarh’s periphery where over 122 mm of rain was recorded in the past 24 hours. “We are keeping our fingers crossed and pray that the rain spell ends by tonight. But in case it continues, there will be a serious cause to worry,” said Principal Secretary, Agriculture, Punjab, NS Kang.
Agriculture officials have warned of 5 to 10 per cent damage to paddy crop because of current spell of rain. However, damage to cotton crop will be in the range of 15 per cent. “The process of damage has already set in. The more time it takes to clear up, the more the damage. And in case fast further rains are accompanied by high velocity winds, the loss would be even greater,” said Director Agriculture, Punjab, BS Sidhu.
Farmers were hoping to reap a bumper crop this year. Until recently, the crop was in very good health and maturing satisfactorily. Harvesting is scheduled to begin in the next few days. “The already laden stalks tend to fall under the weight of the heavy rain and are almost impossible to retrieve or harvest,” said an agriculture official. Reports of panic selling of paddy have come in from Sirhind and Rajpura. Farmers have started harvesting the high moisture content crop and have sold it for just Rs 800 to Rs 930 a quintal to private buyers.
“The paddy is still wet and has high moisture. It is obvious that the lot bought now will also have discolored grains,” said Balwinder Singh of Saidkheri village. He had sown 6129 short duration variety, which was flattened two days ago. “All flattened plants require support to remain afloat. Providing support is a very labour intensive process and not all framers can afford it. So, farmers have sold off their crop,” he explained.
Overnight rain in the Malwa belt has badly damaged cotton crop that was standing ripened, waiting to be plucked. Bathinda district, one of the largest cotton growing areas, is worst hit. Many fields in the Sangat block were waterlogged. Several farmers rued that rain at this stage had damaged both matured and unmatured cotton bulbs. Farmers are now pinning their hopes on the second and third plucking of cotton. Wet cotton would have to be disposed at throwaway prices.