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Monsoon cheer for tea growers, cultivators

Jorhat, June 9: The onset of monsoon in the Northeast, albeit delayed by four days, has brought cheer to tea growers and cultivators alike.

Reeling under heavy crop loss in the first flush, the rain has brought hope of a better tea crop output in the second flush period.

Rajiv Deka, scientist at the agro-meteorology department of the Assam Agricultural University, here said the dark cloud cover and heavy shower in different parts of the state signalled the onset of monsoon in the region and the four-day delay was more or less normal. “The monsoon should have hit the region on June 5 or 6 and the gap of four days is not considered to be much of a delay,” he said.

Deka said for the Northeast where rain is usually heavy, the prediction of lower rainfall this year would not affect Assam much.

“A drop of 10 per cent will not affect our crops as the rainfall is heavy in the region. What is important is the distribution of rainfall should be even,” he said.

A tea planter in Jorhat district said he had suffered a shortfall of 30 per cent in the first flush and the continued dry spell in the second flush period (May-July) was cause for dismay.

“The rains have brought hope the loss would be made up during this period. Though a bit late, if the rain falls evenly now, then the tea industry will have a lot to cheer about,” he said.

The Indian Tea Association report has said crops in the Assam valley had declined by 40 per cent in April and 30 per cent in May and that the decline in north Indian tea would be around 16 million kg in April and 14 million kg in May.

At Meleng, Mahan Bora, a farmer, said he had somehow managed to plant seeds after ferrying cans of water from a tubewell he installed in his fields last year. “I have not seen such dry weather compounded by the heat till this year.”

My land had become so dry that fissures had formed. Today, I sprinkled water on the field so I could sow the paddy seeds, as it was already late for planting. However, the rains washed away everything,” he added.

Bora, however, welcomed the onset of the monsoon but warned that this type of climate change did not augur well for the region.

“High-yielding hybrid varieties cannot be depended upon all the time, as they are not able to withstand the extreme weather conditions. The seeds of Ranjit and Masuri varieties of paddy should have been planted by now. We should preserve indigenous varieties of paddy which have properties to withstand flood and drought conditions,” Bora said.

Bora, who has collected 230 indigenous varieties from all over the state, said he was all for organic farming.

However, everybody did not welcome the downpour, with waterlogging in different parts of Jorhat town resulting in commuters getting stranded.

Rainwater, which reached around knee level, flowed across the roads instead of the drains, rushed into houses and blocked office entrances.