Wheat Crop
The wheat crop is a significant winter (rabi) crop, and the recent rains have arrived just as the crop was nearing maturity and ready for harvesting I Representational Pic: Wikimedia Commons

Jharkhand farmers face uncertainty as winter rain deficit hits Rabi crops

Officials have reported that farmers in Jharkhand, who are still grappling with losses from the Kharif season drought, are now facing further uncertainty due to the acute deficit of winter rain, which is negatively impacting the Rabi crops.

The state received a mere 0.3mm rainfall against the normal average of 41.3mm from November 1 to February 16, according to the weather department.

“Jharkhand faced 100% rain deficit in November, January and February. The situation was slightly better in December with 96% deficit,” said a weather department official.

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Scanty rainfall since last year has already impacted Rabi crop sowing, with 35 per cent of the total arable land lying fallow, data shared by the agricultural department revealed.

Rabi crops are usually sown from October to December. In Jharkhand, the exercise continues till mid-January.

“The state recorded 25% surplus rainfall in October but thereafter the weather remained almost dry. Jharkhand did not experience any rain after December 26 last year,” said the in-charge of Ranchi Meteorological Centre, Abhishek Anand.

In the last phase of the monsoon season, the state had received copious rain, prompting the government to increase the target area for Rabi crop sowing to over 15 lakh hectares this year, noted Mukesh Sinha, the deputy director at state agriculture department.

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The sowing coverage of main Rabi crops, such as pulses, wheat and oilseeds, however, stood at 10.26 lakh hectares this season, down from 10.98 lakh hectares the year before.

“Acute rainfall deficit since November has impacted the sowing, with a considerable part of the arable land lying fallow. We will review the situation soon and decide on the measures that can be taken to give relief to the farmers, if there is a need,” Sinha told PTI.

Agricultural experts expressed concern over the fate of farmers, who completely depend on rainfall for crop yield.

Additional director of research at Birsa Agricultural University (BAU), PK Singh, said “The irrigation facility in the state is known to be covering just about 18% of the arable land. Many farmers in Jharkhand depend solely on rain for crop cultivation. Notably, the weather pattern is also changing. We have to have seeds that can work in accordance with this change. Currently, research is underway to develop drought-resilient seeds.”

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Karu Mahto, a farmer from Ranchi’s Chanho area, said both the kharif and rabi seasons turned out to be “disappointing”, with little hope left at the fag end of winter.

“The dry season was good for vegetable crops but we failed to recover the investment made, as cabbage and tomato grew in excess and was sold at throwaway prices,” he rued.

Jharkhand farmers faced drought in last Kharif season due to 49% rain deficit in the first two months of monsoon season, considered crucial for sowing rice, maize, millet, ragi, pulses.

Rain deficit at 20%

However, overall monsoon rain deficit in Jharkhand, till September 30, was 20%.

The JMM-led government had on October 29 declared 226 of the 260 blocks in the state as “drought-hit” and decided to provide a cash relief of Rs 3,500 to each affected farmer family under the chief ministers relief scheme.

The state has also demanded Rs 9,682 crore as drought package from the Centre.

According to the agriculture department, overall paddy production in the kharif season of 2022-23 stood at 18.53 lakh tonne against 53.08 lakh tonne in 2021-22.

(With agency inputs)

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