The state made a swift recovery in paddy transplantation thanks to timely mid-August rain, though a slump in rice production still looms large.
The agriculture department’s latest data show 86 per cent of 34 lakh hectares — area targeted for paddy cultivation in the kharif season — had been sown till September 3. The target percentage was 65 on August 13. (See graphic)
Chief secretary Ashok Kumar Sinha reviewed the scenario last Tuesday. M. Saravanan, director, agriculture, said: “The paddy transplantation coverage has risen to 86 per cent and we expect rice production to be similar to last year.”
But agriculture experts fear rice production will be hit because of over-aging of paddy seedlings in the nursery because of scanty rain in July. “Paddy seedlings should be transplanted 20-25 days after sowing, when around 1.5-2ft standing water is required in the nursery and agriculture land. But scanty rain across the state in July did not allow farmers to pluck seedlings from the nurseries. As a result, the seedlings remained untouched for 40-45 days, maturing more than required. So, the growth of paddy saplings transplanted around mid-August might not be normal,” said an agriculture scientist.
Against the targeted rice production of 93 lakh tonnes during kharif season, the actual production was 83 lakh tonnes last year and 81 lakh tonnes in 2011. Kharif season starts from the onset of southwest monsoon and ends in September.
Paddy seedlings are sowed in early June and transplantation takes place in early July. Paddy transplantation is feasible from the beginning of July to mid-August. Though Bihar received 9 per cent surplus rain in June, when paddy seedlings were sown, there was a 47 per cent rain shortfall in July when most paddy seedlings are transplanted.
Just when all hopes of crop survival were fading, tillers heaved a sigh of relief, as it rained on almost all days after August 15, a period considered the “golden hour” for survival of seedlings.
“It rained intermittently across most parts of the state from mid-August, which must have helped farmers transplant paddy seedlings,” said Ashish Sen, director, India Meteorological Department, Patna.
Most tillers in the state seem to agree with the state government’s figures.
“Most farmers in the traditional rice belt, including Rohtas, Jehanabad, Bhojpur and Nalanda districts are likely to have carried out over 70 per cent of paddy transplantation. This is because we are totally dependent on paddy and don’t go for other crops until the conditions become too grave,” said Yashwant Kumar Singh, a farmer from Rohtas.
Experts claimed a clearer picture of rice yield would emerge by December.
“Major harvesting of paddy is done between October and December, and the third advance estimate of paddy yield by the statistical directorate of agriculture department also comes by December,” said a senior official of the agriculture department.