Agri Business

El Nino or not, it all boils down to rainwater for Rajasthan's farmers

VINSON KURIAN THIRUVANANTHAPURAM | Updated on January 22, 2018

The guar plant

Rarely have farmers in Rajasthan felt more frustrated during a monsoon than they have felt in the 2015 season.  

“Statistics say West Rajasthan has received surplus rain but its spread has been restricted to a short period,” says Dilip Soni, Director of the Jodhpur-based Shree Ram Gum Chemicals.

Shree Ram is an internationally renowned producer of guar gum and guar gum derivatives. And Rajasthan is the country’s leading producer of guar, a kharif crop.  

'NONSENSE' SURPLUS

An India Met Department update has said West Rajasthan has received surplus rainfall of 52 per cent as on September 3.

This is ‘big’ as surpluses go especially during a deficit monsoon year (-12 per cent as of latest) but statistical rainfall surpluses can deceive and bluff the farmer on the ground.

This is true not just of West Rajasthan but the country as a whole. Gangetic West Bengal is the only other Met subdivision which has a rainfall surplus (+24 per cent).

In an e-mailed communication to BusinessLine, Soni described how temporal spread of rainfall (across time and space) could make or mar the crop, despite a surplus.

DESERT CROPS

Crops in a desert state?

Of course, yes, and they are a delightful handful, says Soni. For instance, bajra, guar, moong, moth (pulses), sesame seeds and groundnut!

“Whether you blame the El Nino or the change in environmental conditions, erratic rainfall doesn’t help the cause of farmers in the arid regions of Rajasthan.”

Because, in the desert, rainfall is the only source of irrigation and farmer fortunes do not hinge on the rain pattern based on which they time their crop.  

Farming is carried out here only during the four monsoon months from June. So, in a way, rainfall is critical to their very livelihood.

SOWING BINGE 

The ideal rainfall pattern would be one good round of rainfall that helps with the sowing, followed by two 15-to-21-day cycles of follow-up rains one after the other.

This pattern goes to more or less ensure maximum yields from the desert soil, Soni explained to BusinessLine.

“This year the monsoon arrived on time and was fairly widespread to start with. The farmers were excited and they went in for binge sowing with hopes for a good season.”

But then rains played truant when they were needed the most in short cycles as mentioned before.   

MOISTURE STRESS

So much so, with each passing day, the farmers are increasingly worried about whether they will be able to save the crop.

Moisture stress has led to a situation where crops have not germinated fully. Wherever they have, they are unable to develop further in the rising heat. 

“We can literally sense the desperation in the farmers’ voices when they call us or meet us asking what the weather forecasts foretell and when it will rain again,” Soni says.

There is now complete resignation to the vagaries of the weather. The only hope is how the Government chooses to respond to their plight.

 

 

Published on September 04, 2015

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