Devotees in East Midnapore shopping for Lakshmi Puja essentials are facing a low supply of paddy husk, among the most vital items of the ritual, as prolonged rainfall has destroyed over 2.1 lakh hectares of the 2.4 lakh hectares of cultivated land in the coastal district.
“Around 2,819 of 3,199 mouzas of land have been inundated in this district over the past month, and in places like Potashpur, one can still see sea-like stretches,” said an official in the agriculture department of East Midnapore district.
He estimated damages in farming because of the rain and floods in East Midnapore alone to be Rs 1,500 crore.
At Amra Kajan Youth club in Bhagabanpur, which shares a fate similar to Potashpur, club president Prabir Adak said the most “surprising and humbling” fact was that the Lakshmi Puja dhan would come from Nadia. “Usually our district sends dhan elsewhere,” he said.
District officials said the cultivation of vegetables and betel leaf has not been spared, with losses pegged at nearly Rs 200 crore. Flower vendors in the district too have had to sell their produce at “unimaginably high” prices because of flood damage.
“Rajnigandha and bel are selling at 10 times their prices compared to last year. This harms the wholesale buyer and customer,” said Bengal flower vendors’ association secretary Narayan Naik.
District deputy director of agriculture (plant protection), Mrinal Kanti Bera, concurred that paddy season in East Midnapore this year had been “lost to the prolonged monsoon” and that there was “no possibility of winter harvest”.
Elsewhere in south Bengal, rain has left vegetable fields under water and caused prices to soar. “While a kilo of brinjal, which cam for Rs 40 before the flood, is now Rs 80 per kilo, lady’s finger, which was earlier priced at Rs 20 per kilo, now comes for Rs 60-70 per kilo,” said Tamluk resident Sujit Dutta.
State agriculture department officials said they were yet to estimate the quantum of loss across south Bengal but admitted the worst-hit crop would be paddy as it was almost ready for harvest when the rain and floods arrived.
“The rain damaged ripe paddy. The sum of damage is yet to be calculated,” said Jagannath Chattopadhyay, deputy director of agriculture in East Burdwan.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Pradip Mazumdar, who is the agriculture adviser to chief minister Mamata Banerjee, said: “According to primary estimates, the situation is so bad that there will be much to worry about. However, we apprehend some loss to vegetables.”
Additional reporting by Snehamoy Chakraborty