Though Punjab is the highest contributor of wheat in the national pool this year as well, untimely heavy rains coupled with hailstorms at the fag end of the crop’s ripening stage have crushed hopes of a bumper crop expected this year.
Crop Cutting Experiments (CCEs), which are conducted every year to get an accurate estimate of the yield of major crops, have revealed this year that Punjab’s per hectare yield has gone down by 92 kg on an average. Worst-hit districts are 4 to 8 quintals down yield per hectare. Surprisingly, Sangrur district, which has topped in per hectare average yield this year among all districts and recorded more yield than the last year, remained one of the exceptions despite being the worst hit by rains.
This year, wheat crop on over two lakh hectares got flattened as per initial surveys of the Punjab agriculture department in March when three major spells of rain were witnessed on March 6, 11, 12 and 13 and then in the third week of March. The coronavirus outbreak interrupted physical surveys of the wheat damage.
Punjab had expected bumper crop this season of 14 million tonnes (140 lakh metric tonnes) production for the central pool, but till date only 127.45 lakh tonnes (12.7 million tonnes) could be procured, while the wheat season is almost about to end.
Of the state’s 22 districts, 8 have shown surplus production and the remaining 14 have shown less per hectare yield in the CCEs.
Till May 28, a total of 2,330 wheat CCEs were conducted of a total planned 2,332 CCEs across the state. As per these experiments, the average yield per hectare was recorded at 50.08 quintals per hectare (20.275 quintals per acre) against 51 quintals and 51.88 quintals per hectare in 2019 and 2018, respectively.
According to the CCEs conducted by the state agriculture department, districts which recorded high average yield than last year include Bathinda (average yield 54.34 quintals against 54.06 quintals last year), Faridkot (55.58 quintals against 53.45 quintals last year), Fazilka (48.84 quintals against 48.07 quintals last year), Mansa (53.81 quintals against 52.38 quintals last year), Moga (53.48 quintals and 51.72 quintals), Mukatsar (54.42 quintals against 52.69 last year), Sangrur (57.67 quintals against 55.96 quintals last year) and SBS Nagar (50.85 quintals against 50 quintals last year).
Sangrur had recorded damage on 58,000 hectares (20 per cent of the total wheat area of the district) as per the initial surveys due to rains, followed by Amritsar, Jalandhar, Patiala, Ludhiana, Gurdaspur etc.
This year 35.05 lakh hectares was under wheat crop and the state has recorded 175.67 lakh metric tonnes (17.5 MT) of the total production till May 28 against 178 LMT (17.8MT) last year and 182.62 LMT (18.2 MT) in 2018, when the area under wheat crop was 34.90 lakh hectares and 35.20 LMT, respectively. Out of 175.67 LMT, Punjab had procured 127.45 LMT for the central pool against the targeted 140 LMT. Around 35-40 LMT is consumed in the state in the form of selling to private players, flour mills, personal use by farm families, for seed purpose etc.
Districts that recorded much less productivity this year included Fatehgarh Sahib, Patiala, Ropar and SAS Nagar where average yield has gone down from 4 quintals to 8 quintals less per hectare. In Fathegarh Sahib, 8 quintals less yield per hectare was recorded, followed by Ropar, which recorded 7 quintals less per acre, Patiala (5 quintals less), and SAS Nagar had over 4 quintals per hectare less yield.
“Despite inclement weather conditions just before harvesting, Punjab remained the highest contributor of the wheat crop to the central pool this year too, which is an achievement. Inclement weather conditions led to less per hectare yield in some of the districts but some districts still recorded more yield than last year,” said Director Punjab Agriculture Department, Dr Sutantra Airy.
There are 142 agricultural blocks in the state and crop-cutting experiments ranging from 28 to around 200 are conducted in each block depending upon size by the department.
This year, harvesting got delayed due to coronavirus, yet Punjab has procured the crop in a successful manner while adopting social distancing norms in grain markets, the number of which was almost doubled to avoid the rush.
Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) Dakunda General Secretary Jagmohan Singh said that due to coronavirus, proper girdawari (physical assessment of the field) of the damaged wheat due to rains could not be conducted and thousands of farmers suffered heavy yield loss for which the government must compensate them. “Farmers have suffered a loss of Rs 5,000-6,000 per acre due to less yield, which was the result of untimely rains and hailstorm, but government did not pay compensation to them,” he added.
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