Calcutta, July 29: Erratic rainfall in south Bengal is likely to hit paddy production in the kharif (monsoon) season if the region does not get enough showers by August 15, agriculture department officials have said.
A senior agriculture department official said that till now, the south Bengal districts, where much of the state’s paddy is grown, have recorded 26 per cent less rainfall. If the shortfall is not covered by August 15, around 5 lakh hectares would be left uncultivated. (See chart)
Agriculture department officials said they did not think the situation would be as bad as it was in 2010. That year, about 10 lakh hectares had remained uncultivated because of a 33 per cent rainfall deficit.
The erratic distribution of rainfall is what is worrying the state officials the most.
“Till now, the south Bengal districts have recorded 26 per cent less rainfall but north Bengal districts have received 13 per cent excess rain. As Burdwan, Hooghly, Nadia, West Midnapore and East Midnapore are the major rice-producing districts, lack of rainfall in these districts could affect paddy production,” the official said.
According to records available with the agriculture department, the south Bengal districts received almost normal rainfall in July but there was a shortfall in June.
“In July, the rice-producing districts were supposed to receive 271.5mm rainfall on average. The districts have received 249.3mm. The shortfall is only 8 per cent. But as the districts did not receive enough rainfall in June, farmers could not prepare seedbeds on time,” another official said.
The farmers started preparing the seedbeds this month. As a result, sowing got delayed because it takes three weeks to prepare a seedbed.
“The farmers will need heavy rainfall in the first two weeks of August for sowing. If the districts do not get proper rainfall in this period, the production of paddy could be hit,” the official added.
“The figures will definitely improve in the next two weeks. But if the state does not receive good rainfall during that period, a large area could be left uncultivated this year,” an official said.
Pawar rain alert
Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar today said “reports are not optimistic.... Everything depends on the return of rains in August and September. If it doesn’t, the situation will become serious.” But he added that the country has adequate grain stocks.