Transplantation likely to be delayed, say experts.

Shobha Roy

Kolkata, Aug.11

The lower-than-anticipated rainfall so far in the southern districts of West Bengal could be a dampener for the major kharif crops such as paddy and jute grown in the State. Rainfall is deficient by about 30-35 per cent in the southern districts, while the northern districts have received excess rainfall.

The sowing of paddy has been on time. However, the transplantation could be delayed due to delayed rains, according to experts. West Bengal is the country's largest rice growing State.

“Initially we were estimating 35-40 per cent rainfall deficit in several districts of south Bengal. However, with some improvement in the second week of July, we've revised our estimate and put the deficit at around 30-35 per cent,” said Mr Angshujyoti Das, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, ExpressWeather. Rainfall, he hoped, would pick up by the second and third week of August.

Paddy acreage

Given the current trend, the total paddy acreage in the State could come down by about 10-15 per cent this year, according to analysts.

The total area under rice in the State is about 59 lakh hectares, and the State produces about 16 million tonnes rice every year in three seasons — Aus, Aman and Boro.

According to provisional Government data, the total rice production in the State fell about 10 per cent in 2009-10 due to poor rainfall and was at about 14.9 million tonnes. “Monsoon is delayed slightly, but we can expect good rains in August and September. However, paddy production in the State could drop by about ten per cent due to the delayed monsoon,” said Mr Badruddin, Senior Research Analyst, Agriculture, Angel Broking.

Impact

Though it is difficult to predict the exact impact of poor rainfall on paddy transplantation now, in certain districts, the transplantation has been slow and seedlings have withered and died due to scanty rain, said Mr Pranab Chatterjee, Director of Farms, Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya.

However, there is still time as transplantation could be done till middle of August.

“The damage will not be much; the shortfall can be made good if there is sufficient rainfall now,” he added.

Burdwan, Birbhum, Nadia and Hooghly are the four high rice producing districts in the State, and make up 27 per cent of the total rice acreage, and 32 per cent of the total production. Districts such as 24 Parganas, Murshidabad, Bankura, Malda, Midnapore, Dinajpur and Howrah, fall under the medium productivity areas.

Poor rainfall

The poor rainfall could also affect the retting process of jute. Post-harvesting, jute has to undergo retting process which needs plenty of water. Insufficient monsoon might impact the quality of jute produced as the retting would have to be done in muddy water, according to a senior official in the jute industry.

“While there has been excessive rainfall in north Bengal, there has been a severe shortfall in south Bengal, particularly Nadia and Murshidabad, which are major jute growing areas. The crop is ready to be harvested but in absence of adequate rainfall, retting has become difficult,” he said. The process of retting usually begins by August 1 and gets completed by September 15.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated August 12, 2010)

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