Dry spell in S Bengal threatens paddy crop

The ongoing dry spell in south Bengal districts has triggered fear among farmers that the kharif paddy (Aman) production would be adversely affected this year.

Written by RAJIB CHATTERJEE | Kolkata | Published: July 2, 2012 3:44 am

The ongoing dry spell in south Bengal districts has triggered fear among farmers that the kharif paddy (Aman) production would be adversely affected this year.

Expecting a normal monsoon,the agriculture department does not want to press the panic button just yet. However,a contingency plan to combat a possible setback in kharif paddy production has been put in place.

According to the agriculture department,the shortfall in this month’s rainfall till last Thursday was estimated at 42 per cent. While normal rainfall in south Bengal districts — the state’s rice bowl — in June is 250 mm,this year the area received only 136 mm rain.

“Normal rainfall in the state for the month of July is 325 mm. If availability of rainwater continues to be low,there could be an adverse effect on kharif paddy production. But the Indian Meteorological Department (has predicted normal rainfall in Bengal. We hope the prediction turns out true. We don’t want to create panic among farmers,but we have kept our contingency plan ready to combat crop failure if it occurs,” a senior agriculture department official said. If the dry spell continues,farmers will be asked to go for production of alternative crops like maize,which requires less water.

According to the agriculture department,Aman seeds have been sowed on only 75,000 hectares till the third week of June. The corresponding figure for 2011 was 1.3 lakh hectares. The department has projected the target area of Aman paddy cultivation at over 42.9 lakh hectares in 2012. Last year’s target was 42.1 lakh hectares.

“We expect to reach the target. Aman paddy cultivation largely depends on rainwater. So if there is a shortage of rainfall,it might affect the crop. We have instructed all our district officers to encourage alternative crop farming if a drought-like situation emerges. Maize farming,which requires less water,can take place in the red laterite zone. We have set up an emergency helpline at Writers’ Buildings to give farmers expert advice,” the official said.

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