Monday, March 9, 2015

'Food bowl' Punjab may not achieve bumper wheat output

CHANDIGARH: Punjab, the food bowl of the country, may not achieve bumper wheat output this season, with several growing areas facing "massive" crop loss due to untimely rains accompanied by hailstorm and high velocity winds during February and this month. 

"We may not have bumper wheat production this season as rains along with hailstorm have damaged wheat crop in several parts of Punjab," Punjab Agriculture Director, Mangal Singh Sandhu told PTI. 

He said heavy rains that lashed during February 16 to 19 and a few spells of showers in the month of March have caused damage to wheat and vegetable crops in the state. 

Punjab has been eyeing bumper production this season on account of prolonged cold conditions and the absence of any widespread attack of crop disease. 

It has targeted wheat output of 168 lakh tonnes for current 2014-15 season. 

The state had logged all-time high wheat production of about 180 lakh tonnes in 2011-12 and then 176 lakh tonnes in 2013-14 helped by favourable weather conditions. 

Sandhu said Moga, Kapurthala, Gurdaspur, Mansa and Fazilka districts are among wheat growing areas which are worst affected because of rains. 

Last night as well, there were widespread rains in northern region with Punjab receiving an average of 5.8 mm of rains. 

"In Fazilka area, water has stagnated over 500-700 hectares of wheat area while Mohali, Kapurthala and Sangrur areas received maximum rainfall in the state last night," he said. 

During February 16-19 rains, wheat crops in districts including Fatehgarh Sahib, Pathankot, Kapurthala, Nawan Shahar and Tarn Taran got "flattened" because of hailstorm and strong winds. 

However, he said the assessment is being made to ascertain the exact loss of wheat crop. 

Meanwhile, Indian Institute of Wheat & Barley Research today said there is going to be 5-7 per cent damage in wheat crop because of unseasonal rains and hailstorm. 

"5-7 per cent damage will be there in wheat crop," Indian Institute of Wheat & Barley Research, Director, Indu Sharma said today. 

"If rains again lash after the wheat grain has developed, then there can be maximum crop loss," she said. 

However, she said there is no need to panic. "We have collected reports from several states including Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. There is no widespread damage to crop." 

She further said that there is not going to be any major loss in wheat output in Punjab and Haryana. 

"We have visited wheat areas (in Punjab, Haryana). Where the hailstorm has struck, there will be damage. Otherwise, there is not going to be any major damage," she asserted. 

Farmers should drain out excess water from wheat fields in order to protect crop from being damaged, she added. 

Haryana Agriculture department said it is in the process of assessing crop damage because of inclement weather conditions, saying that there could be damage in Gurgaon, Palwal and other southern districts. 

Punjab government had sought from Centre upward revision in compensation to farmers suffering crop loss because of rains and hailstorm.