The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hailstorms wreak crop havoc

Feb. 12: Winter came with a sting in the tail, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

Short and sharp hailstorms that lashed Raiganj block in North Dinajpur and Englishbazar and Manikchak blocks in Malda district on Monday and Tuesday have wreaked havoc on standing crops, including wheat, mustard seeds, boro paddy and vegetables.

Farmers in Malda, in particular, are worried about mango. The prospect of the famous mango cultivation — already suffering from late blossoming due to an unprecedented cold wave in the district — has become uncertain this year because of the hailstorm.

“This is time for blossoming of mango. I fear that the hailstorm will tell upon the mango prospects heavily. We have to wait and watch to get the right assessment,” said Mewaram, principal mango promotion officer of Malda.

The early morning hailstorm that lasted for hardly half-an-hour had little effect in the town areas. But a three-inch layer of ice on agricultural land, before it melted down, has caused irreparable damage to the crops at a “very matured stage”.

Maniakura, Gauri and Bahin are among the worst-hit villages. The peasants — yet to recover from last year’s crop failure — had been banking on mustard seeds and wheat this year.

“We suffered immensely last year. The mini-kits distributed by the government among the farmers were of no use. We found to our dismay that mini-kits were of poor quality. This year also there will be no production here. I am most worried about how to pay back the moneylender,” Saidul Alam of Bahin village said.

“According to preliminary reports, crops worth nearly Rs 90 lakh has been damaged in the hailstorm. We are now advising farmers to take recourse to planting summer crops to compensate the damage. We are also in touch with the higher authorities so that some kind of compensation is provided to the farmers,” North Dinajpur principal agricultural officer Kajal Chakraborty said. Out of the total 35,000-hectare agricultural land in Raiganj block, crops on 22,000 hectares had been badly damaged, he added.

Concerned over prospects of crop failure for two successive years, district magistrate Ariz Aftab said: “I am awaiting the detailed report from the agriculture department. Appropriate steps will be taken only after I get the full report. My office is also sending a report to Writers’ Buildings.”

Malda district magistrate Ashok Bala said, unlike in North Dinajpur, hundreds of tiled houses in the town had also been badly damaged in the hailstorm in Malda.

Nadia damage

Severe hailstorms that lashed two blocks of Karimpur for the past three days have destroyed betel vines worth about Rs 10 crore, spreading panic among cultivators. The situation has worsened as betel leaf farmers had lost crop worth about Rs 12 crore in this year’s harsh winter.

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