Heavy rainfall leaves a trail of damage; potato, veg bear the brunt
Heavy rainfall triggered by Cyclone Jawad lashed south Bengal since Saturday, leaving a trail of damage to potatoes, vegetables and paddy.
The state government asked officials to assess the loss even as the authorities apprehended an increase in the price of these crops in coming days.
Officials said potato-producing districts like Bankura, West Midnapore, Hooghly and East Burdwan would be the worst-affected as the region did not experience such heavy rainfall during December in recent memory. The state government had already asked its officials in agriculture and horticulture departments to assess the loss and take initiative to drain out water from fields.
The rain was the result of a depression triggered by Cyclone Jawad that lost its strength and turned into a low-pressure wind.
“The heavy rainfall will certainly have an impact but we have taken several measures to mitigate the loss of crops. Our officials have been visiting districts to assess the loss and helping farmers drain out the water in the field,” said Pradip Majumdar, the agriculture advisor to chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
In the past 24 hours, districts like Bankura, East Burdwan, Hooghly and West Midnapore witnessed around 100-130mm of rainfall.
Officials in various districts said potatoes suffered most because the rain had left fields waterlogged. Over 15 lakh potato farmers had cultivated the crop on 4.16 lakh hectares of land across the state.
“We apprehend major damage to potatoes and it will create a shortage of the crop in the coming season. The farmers now have to re-cultivate the crop at many places as draining out water is a major challenge. It will lead farmers to take an additional financial burden of around Rs 60,000 per an acre,” said a senior agriculture department official in East Burdwan.
Farmers said they would be ruined if the government didn’t help them with proper compensation.
“It is for the first time in my memory that we witnessed such huge rainfall in December and we were not prepared for it. The field and saplings have gone under water and all potatoes I had sown on three acres of land have been damaged. Now, I have to sow again and it is nearly impossible for me to bear the cost,” said Anil Kundu, a potato farmer in Hooghly’s Goghat.
Government officials said they held an emergency meeting with the crop insurance companies to intimated them about the loss.
“We had a meeting with crop insurance companies and informed them about the predicted damage to crops because of heavy rainfall. Those with insurance cover would be compensated soon. However, the loss to paddy production will not be higher as 80-90 per cent of the produce has been harvested,” said Majumdar.
Officials in East Midnapore and West Midnapore said they were apprehending damage to crops on at least 1.2 lakh hectares. Apart from flowers, crops like potatoes and vegetables have been damaged. However, the final assessment is yet to be done.
In Bankura, officials said they were apprehending damage to potatoes in 28,000 hectares of land where potatoes had been cultivated.
Apart from potatoes, around 10-20 per cent of paddy, which were yet to be harvested in the field, were also damaged and the flower production has taken a big hit.
Jayanta Parui, the deputy director of agriculture in Hooghly, said: “The damage will be huge on potatoes and vegetables. We are assessing the damage.”