Agri Business

Power problems short-circuit paddy planting in Punjab

Subramani Ra Mancombu Chennai | Updated on July 05, 2021

Hot weather leads to increased domestic offtake, State takes steps for supply to agri sector

Paddy sowing faces trouble in Punjab because of delays in advance of the south-west monsoon, resulting in scorching weather and a shortage of power.

The delay in the onset of monsoon in the northern plains resulted in the temperatures rising by 6-8 degrees Celsius. As a result, demand for power from the domestic sector increased sharply, catching the Punjab government off-guard in meeting the demand.

Transplanting hit

“There is a huge demand for power in Punjab on account of the hot weather resulting from the delay in the monsoon. This has delayed sowing of paddy since power is not available for pumping water, which is required particularly for transplantation,” said Suresh Singh Chauhan, General Manager, AMDD Foods Pvt Ltd in Tarn Taran district.

 

“Transplantation of the saplings requires at least ¾ foot water. But due to power shortage farmers are not able to pump that much water on their fields,” said Bhagwan Das, Secretary-General of Young Farmers Association Punjab (YFAP).

Paddy, a water guzzling crop, is the main Kharif crop in Punjab and Haryana. Last year, non-Basmati paddy was grown on 27 lakh hectares (lh) and Basmati on 4.06 lh resulting in 19.1 million tonnes (mt) non-Basmati rice production and 1.7 mt of Basmati rice.

Punjab is the third-largest producer of rice in the country after Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. Its rice production last season (July 2020-21) was 15.7 per cent of the record 121.46 mt the country produced.

Acreage data

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, rice had been planted on 36.15 lh till June 24, up 1.53 lh compared with the same period a year ago. The data showed that the area in Punjab had increased 1.3 lh.

“We cannot be confident about the data that is being put out from Punjab. The northern State may not want to accept the ground reality,” said a New Delhi-based trade observer.

AMDD’s Chauhan said that the area under paddy was likely to increase this year since sales of seeds were higher compared with the previous year. “Acreage of both Basmati and non-Basmati is likely to go up this year,” he said.

“Currently, we are trying to save the seedlings that have germinated. We have completely stopped transplanting the seedlings until the power situation improves or the monsoon sets in,” said YFAP’s Das.

Relief from heatwave

The farmers have some relief with the heatwave abating in the northern plains and rainfall occurring in Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and western Uttar Pradesh. However, the India Meteorological Department said the humid conditions would continue for another 4-5 days.

“Once the monsoon sets in, sowing activity will increase as power demand from the domestic sector will drop,” said Chauhan.

“Rains have to come, and the power situation has to improve,” said Das.

“The situation is improving with the State government ensuring eight hours power supply for the agriculture sector. More area is being covered under paddy now,” said Narinder Singh Benipal, Block Agriculture Officer, Ludhiana.

On July 1, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh ordered curtalining the State government offices timing to save power while also cutting supply to high energy-consuming industries. These measures were taken to ensure power supply to the agriculture sector and protect crops besides easing supply for domestic consumption.

Problems ahead

“This year, Kharif crops could face problems due to lower rainfall during the south-west monsoon and resulting humidity that could affect standing crops. But it is early days yet,” said the Delhi-based observer.

But reports from Punjab said that farmers were planting paddy in two ways. One is opting for direct seeding in a portion of their farms and the other by transplanting. They are also reportedly mixing long duration and short duration rice varieties.

Punjab farmers have been encouraged by the minimum support price for paddy being raised to Rs 1,940 a quintal from Rs 1,888 last year.

Why the crisis

Punjab has been able to supply only 12,800 MW of power against the demand of 14,225 MW. Demand has shot up due to the delay in monsoon setting in. The monsoon sets typically in around June 28, but it has been delayed by over a week this year. This has resulted in power cuts of over 12 hours in the domestic sector.

This has led to a hue and cry being raised and a slew of protests against the power shortage. In 2019, demand for power in Punjab was estimated at 13,650 MW. Due to the Covid pandemic, it dropped to 13,150 MW last year.

Failing to anticipate a sharp rise in demand, the Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd had made arrangements to supply only 13,000 MW of power. This resulted in supply not meeting demand.

The State is also suffering since the Amarinder Singh Government shut the Bathinda power plant and two units of the Ropar power plant soon after coming to power in 2017. These had a combined capacity to produce 880 MW of power.

The Punjab government has shelved plans for a solar power plant and another plant based on biomass fuel. In addition to these, the State faces a financial crunch preventing it from purchasing power to make up the shortfall.

Published on July 04, 2021

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