Unseasonal rain washes away farmers’ hopes : The Tribune India

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Overall average rainfall in Punjab: 8.1 mm

Unseasonal rain washes away farmers’ hopes

CHANDIGARH/AMRITSAR: Moderate to heavy rains lashed many parts of the state in the past 24 hours, dashing the hopes of farmers as they were gearing up to reap their harvest in a few days.

Unseasonal rain washes away farmers’ hopes

A farmer in a pensive mood at the grain market following rain in Sangrur on Thursday. A Tribune photo

Varinder Singh & Perneet Singh

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh/Amritsar, April 16

Moderate to heavy rains lashed many parts of the state in the past 24 hours, dashing the hopes of farmers as they were gearing up to reap their harvest in a few days.

Untimely rains have virtually played havoc with wheat and other vegetable crops.

Statistics available with the Punjab Agriculture Department revealed that Punjab received average rainfall of 22.6 mm between April 1 and 16. The overall rainfall recorded by the department was 8.1 mm today as compared to 6.5 mm on April 7.

Jalandhar received maximum 28 mm of rainfall and Kapurthala received 21.5 mm, while minimum rainfall was recorded in Mansa district of Punjab at just 1 mm. The districts of Faridkot, Bathinda (except Rampura Phul and surrounding areas), Ferozepur, Fazilka and Muktsar hardly received any rainfall today.

Though Director, Agriculture Department, Mangal Singh Sandhu claimed that there was no report of any major loss to wheat and other crops from anywhere in the state, farm experts and farmers said inclement weather had not only delayed the harvesting of wheat in certain pockets of Punjab, but it had also led to damage to summer vegetable crops such as brinjal, bitter gourd, lady finger and other cucurbits.

“Bad weather, especially rain, has affected the crop luster. The crop has shriveled and discolouration has taken place at a number of places. Vegetable planting process has also been delayed by rains and consequent low temperature,” said Jalandhar-based farm expert Dr Naresh Gulati.

“Fresh spell of rain is enough to reduce the per acre yield by about 40 kg,” said a farm expert. The inclement weather has forced the state government to postpone the official procurement process by about 10 days.

Baldev Singh, a farmer from Verka, apprehended that the rain would cause losses up to 30 per cent to his standing wheat crop. He said rainfall had led to waterlogging in his fields as he had already watered his crop. Another farmer Sukhwinder Singh feared up to 50 per cent crop loss while pointing towards stagnant water in his fields.

He said he was clueless as to where to drain out this water as there were fields all around his land. He said the rainfall would not only hamper grain formation, but would also lead to discolouration of grain, thereby taking a toll on its quality.

Varinder Singh, a farmer from Dhulka village, said the wheat crop in their area had already got damaged in unseasonal rainfall in the recent past, but now they had lost whatever little hope they had to at least break even.

Agriculture Department officials BS Chhina and Gurdeep Singh said, “The situation has worsened with the fresh spell of rainfall, as it will further delay harvesting. The farmers are suffering losses, particularly in low-lying areas. Wheat has started turning black.” They also feared that the wheat yield may go down by 5 to 10 per cent. They said more rain would be harmful for the crop as it needed dry days before harvesting.

In neighbouring Tarn Taran district, the scenario was equally dismal as hailstorm was witnessed in some pockets like Chhabal and Kairon.

Puran Singh from Marimegha village rued that he had lost his entire crop in the rain. Harbans Singh from Kang village said unseasonal rain had devastated his wheat crop on four acres.

Tarn Taran Chief Agriculture Officer Dr SS Sandhu said, “Rainfall augurs bad for the farming community as it is leading to the crop loss in the district.”

State seeks relief of Rs 717 crore from Centre

Meanwhile, the Punjab Government has sought a relief of Rs 717 crore from the NDA-led Central government for the damage caused to the crops till last week by hailstorm and rain. The Punjab Agriculture Department is now busy assessing the quantum of loss incurred to wheat and other crops on account of fresh spell of rainfall in several Punjab districts on Wednesday and Thursday.

“We are not only preparing the loss chart due to rain in Punjab in the past two days, but we are also going to take up the matter with the Centre to make addition to the compensation accordingly,” said Punjab Agriculture Minister Tota Singh.

Tota Singh was in Delhi to take up the issue of compensation from the Centre for rain and hailstorm hit Punjab farmers.

“Both Punjab and Haryana today urged the Centre to relax wheat procurement norms by increasing the wheat crop moisture limit from the existing 12 per cent to at least 15 or 17 per cent for it was for the first time that untimely rain and hailstorm have caused such a huge loss to the wheat crop at its maturity stage. I have asked the Centre to give us additional relief for the damage caused to the crop due to fresh rainfall,” said Tota Singh.

Farmers protest poor lifting of wheat

Patiala: Hundreds of farmers today staged a dharna against the state government alleging poor facilities and lifting at mandis, particularly in Rajpura, Patiala and Samana.

The farmers blocked the Patiala-Sirhind road alleging non-procurement of wheat by the government agencies despite the fact that rain spell throughout the day delayed the arrival of wheat crop by almost a week.

Hundreds of quintals of wheat have already arrived at various grain markets of the district, but most of the produce has moisture content higher than the permissible limit and following some pending issues to be sorted out by the government, remains unsold.

As per the norms, the produce should not have more than 12% moisture content but, due to rain, it is still higher. Patiala Deputy Commissioner Varun Roojam claimed that the Food and Supply Department relaxed some norms late this evening, which would help labour and truck union problems and lifting should be on track in the next few days.

Farmers to stage protest

With the crop loss mounting with each spell of unseasonal rain, the farmers are set to stage a protest outside the DC office here on Friday, seeking adequate compensation for their losses. Farmer leader Rattan Singh Randhawa said a large number of farmers would converge on Amritsar to lodge their protest. He said they would also demand bonus on wheat as well as implementation of recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission. He apprehended that the farmers would face procurement blues as the rain had adversely hit the quality of crop too.

(With inputs from Gurbaxpuri in Tarn Taran & Aman Sood from Patiala)

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