html Kharif crops hit by drought, pulses take a Maha pounding

MUMBAI: Moong production in Maharashtra is set to drop by a steep 61% and soyabean yield by 59% compared to last year as a result of the sweeping drought that set in nine months ago. While the havoc caused by the recent spell of unseasonal rains is yet to sink in, the drought which preceded it has already hit the production of the state's main kharif crops.

The drought was triggered by scanty rains between June and October 2014, which devastated the kharif crop (June-September season). Considered one of the most widespread agricultural droughts in recent years, it has led to massive crop losses. Nearly two-thirds of Maharashtra's villages reported half the standard crop yield during the kharif season.

The result is a steep decline in the production of food crops, mainly pulses, state government estimates show.

The tur yield is set to fall by 42 % and udid by 48% compared to last year. Some cereals, including maize, have been impacted, with yield expected to fall by 52%. Kharif jowar and bajra could see a fall of over 30% while ragi is set to see a 20% decline.

These estimates from the state agriculture department are part of the memorandum submitted by the Maharashtra government to seek central aid for the drought.

Cash crops have also taken a hit, the data shows. Besides the soyabean crop, the estimates show a 27% fall in the production of cotton and a steep 56% decline in kharif oilseeds.

More worrying, the drought has also impacted the arrival of farm produce in the state's main agricultural markets. "The arrival of farm produce in 2014-15 has been reduced by almost 50% compared to last year," the state's memorandum points out. This includes an almost 50% fall in soyabean arrivals, a near 62% drop in groundnut produce and a 43% fall in cotton produce.

The figures contrast the arrival of farm produce at the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees between September and November 2013 and the corresponding period in 2014.

State agriculture minister Eknath Khadse says the reduced yields will not cause a shortage. "The kharif crop losses are expected to be more than 50%. But this may not lead to a shortage in the state because we can get supplies from other states," he said.

But experts say the state is set to face rising prices, especially for pulses. "Since pulses are imported, a shortage will push up prices. The price of tur dal has already shot up to Rs 6,000 per quintal, much higher than the minimum support price of Rs 4,200," says farm activist Vijay Jawandia.

Report 3: The original version of this story appeared in The Times of India on 11 March 2015

More in this series:

Report 1: Nearly 80000 homeless elders go hungry
Report 2: Drought hits 90 lakhs farmers in Maharashtra
Report 4: 40% rise in farmer suicides in Maharashtra
Report 5: Bitter Harvest - Where villagers dig for hours to fill a pot
Report 6: Drought migration forces aged to toil as farm hands
Report 7: The man with 48 borewells in drought-hit Marathwada
Report 8: Maharashtra's drought-hit farmers without bank accounts denied aid
Report 9: Maharashtra govt says mulling farmer insurance as opposition cites TOI’s suicide reports
Report 10: Study: Agri-corporates, not farmers, hog loans
Report 11: Direct loans below Rs 25,000 to farmers plunge to 4.3% from 23%
Report 12: Only 12% potential of Maharashtra’s 70,000 small dams used
Report 13: Unseasonal rain: 601 farmer suicides in Maharashra in just 3 months
Report 14: 'Only 3 Maharashtra farmers ended life due to unseasonal rain'
Report 15: State government's logic for its low farmer suicide count: Only 3 blamed rains
Report 16: Beef banned, but no state-run cow shelters in sight