Floods wreak havoc on farmland in five States

Vishwanath Kulkarni Bengaluru | Updated on August 19, 2019

The major crops affected include sugarcane, maize, soyabean, cotton, paddy, horticulture crops and plantation crops   -  Abhijeet Gurjar

Preliminary estimates put about 9 lakh ha under water

Apart from claiming hundreds of lives, displacing lakhs of people and destroying infrastructure in Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Goa, the flooding triggered by incessant rains in the first fortnight of August has also inflicted heavy losses on the farming community.

Preliminary estimates suggest that about 9 lakh hectares of farmland in these States have been impacted by the floods, with vast stretches still submerged and silt entering fields. The major crops impacted include sugarcane, maize, soyabean, cotton, paddy, horticulture crops and plantation crops such as coffee, arecanut and tea.

Karnataka: Kharif crops hit

In Karnataka, agricultural crops on about 7 lakh hectares spread over 22 districts have been washed away, official sources said. This accounts for over a tenth of the sown area of 65 lakh hectares in this kharif season. Also, thousands of hectares of horticultural and plantation crops have been hit and the damage is yet to be assessed as large tracts remain submerged and are inaccessible.

“The area affected could go up once the water recedes,” said an official in the Karnataka Agriculture Department. Belagavi and Bagalkote districts bore the brunt of the flooding caused by heavy rains in southern Maharashtra, while the traditional coffee and arecanut growing regions in the South were hit by surplus precipitation in early August.

Kurbur Shantakumar, President, Karnataka Sugarcane Growers Association, estimates that standing crop on over 2 lakh hectares has been lost. This is higher than the government’s preliminary estimates of 1.21 lakh ha. Karnataka is the third-largest producer of sugarcane, with acreage at 4.4 lakh ha, so far, in the current season. “The State government should immediately provide a minimum relief of ₹1 lakh per acre for the cane growers hit by the floods and waive their outstanding loans completely,” said Shantakumar. He urged the government to bring sugarcane and banana under the ambit of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana.

Distress in Maharashtra

In Maharashtra, kharif crops, fruits, vegetables and sugarcane on an estimated 1.5 lakh ha have been damaged by the recent floods. State officials peg the initial crop loss at ₹2,000 crore. The sugar belt districts of Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur were the worst affected. They account for about 50 per cent of the total sugarcane cultivated in Maharashtra, the second largest producer of the sweetener. The sugarcane crop in these districts was submerged for at least four days and farmers said that this will affect the weight of the cane as well as sugar recovery. “Sugar production per se in Maharashtra is likely to go down this year. A clearer picture will emerge once the crop loss survey is complete,” said Prakash P Naiknavare, MD of the National Federation of Co-operative Sugar Factories Ltd, the apex body of sugar co-ops.

The State Agriculture Department is conducting a detailed survey to submit a report to the State government. Agriculture officials said that almost all kharif crops sown in these districts haves been washed away and that the State might need more assistance from the Centre. Ironically, the Marathwada region is facing a rain deficit of 23 per cent and Vidarbha, of 2 per cent.

Sharad Pawar, former Agriculture Minister, said: “The sugarcane crop on thousands of hectares has been completely destroyed. But loans taken by farmers from co-operative societies will remain. Therefore, we will urge the government to grant a complete loan waiver for the current year. Fresh crop loans must be granted so that farmers can undertake cultivation in the affected fields.” Apart from sugarcane, crops such as soyabean, maize, bajra, cotton, onion, tur, paddy, potato and guava are some of the main crops affected in Maharashtra.

Kerala, AP

In Kerala, which was hit by heavy flooding yet again, close to 29,000 hectares of cropped land have been lost this year. The Kerala Agricultural Department estimates economic losses of around ₹3,700 crore, of which farm sector losses have been pegged at ₹1,100 crore. Crops such as paddy, banana, vegetables and coconut are among others that have been affected.

The loss to animal husbandry has been estimated at ₹25 crore. However, the assessment of plantation crop losses is yet to be completed, said the Association of Planters, Kerala. Plantation crops include coffee, tea, rubber and cardamom.

PTI reports that in Andhra Pradesh, flooding caused by the Krishna river has submerged agriculture crops on 5,311 hectares and horticulture crops on 1,400 hectares in the Krishna and Guntur districts.

(With inputs from Radheshyam Jadhav in Pune and V Sajeev Kumar in Kochi)

Published on August 19, 2019

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