Farmers may be asked to switch to less water-intensive crops if rains play truant

The erratic monsoon has prompted the Maharashtra Government to put together a contingency plan for the farm sector.

Under the plan, if the monsoon does not normalise by July 7, farmers would be advised to switch to crops that require less water and can withstand dry weather.

The Maharashtra Agriculture Commissioner, Mr Umakant Dangat, told Business Line that the monsoon situation is definitely worrisome.

Of the total Kharif area (132.34 lakh hectares), sowing has been completed in just 10 per cent of that area.

Area-wise plan

The plan, which has been prepared in consultation with agriculture universities, would be implemented with the help of agriculture extension services, the commissioner said.

As per the plan, in the Marathwada region, farmers could sow seeds of cotton, jowar, bajra, soybean, sunflower, pigeon pea (tur dal), sesame, and sunflower between July 8 and 15. They should avoid crops such as groundnut, green gram and black lentils.

Between July 16 and 31, they could also sow castor seeds. However, sowing of cotton, jowar and ground nut should be avoided.

In the Vidarbha region, farmers should sow 20 per cent more seeds of cotton per acre. While planting, precedence should be given to early flowering seed varieties, said the plan document.

Agriculture expert, Mr Jagadeesh Sunkad, said that the delay in the monsoon can lead to panic among farmers and traders. “You can’t do anything about bad monsoon. But uncertainty among farmers and traders can be prevented by sharing data openly about the status of agriculture,” he said.

Agriculture extension programmes involving traders should be held at all levels. The traders have a strong say in what farmers sow in the fields. Since they provide seeds and fertilisers on credit to the farmers, the traders cannot be ignored by the government, Mr Sunkad said.

rahulw@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on July 1, 2012)
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