Sugarcane, cotton, apple crops hit by late rainfall pan-India

Economy


NEW DELHI|PUNE|CHANDIGARH: Torrential rains have swamped sugarcane fields in Maharashtra and Karnataka, which will reduce production and cause losses to farmers but won’t impact the heavily-stocked sugar market.

The spurt in monsoon has also inundated oilseed and cotton fields in western and central India, and affected apple production in the north around the time the fruit has matured to the plucking stage. Rainfall in August has been about onethird more than average across the country, while the north has seen exceptionally heavy showers in recent days. The good news from the weather office is that rainfall will now moderate in northwest, southern and central regions.

Preliminary estimates by Maharashtra’s agriculture department show 4.17 lakh hectare — about half of which is in Kolhapur, Sangli and Satara — was flooded this season. This has damaged sugarcane, horticulture crops and turmeric.

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Cane cultivation was already down 28% in the state because of dry weather earlier in the season, and the flood will further reduce availability. “Sugar mills from these districts will definitely face shortages of sugarcane. But we cannot quantify it right now as the surveys are still being carried out,’ said Sanjay Khatal, managing director, Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Mills Association.

PG Medhe, honorary adviser at Shri Chhatrapati Rajaram SSK, Kolhapur, said, “The sugarcane crop that has been submerged till the top for many days is unlikely to survive. I have not seen floods like this in 73 years.” Ankush Chormule from Ashta in Sangli, said, “It is a loss of minimum Rs 30,000 per acre for those farmers who had planted cane recently.”

Indian Sugar Mills Association had earlier estimated a 20% drop in production to 28.2 million tonnes, after a record output of around 33 mt in the 2018-19 season.

“Now the output will further decline with two major sugarcane producing states hit by floods. We have not yet estimated the exact losses. But there will be no shortage of sugar as we have enough stock,” said an industry executive.

Waterlogging in Punjab’s cotton fields is likely to hit production as the crop has been submerged for days on the eve of the harvest. “We had conducted meeting of officials in cotton area to spread advisory to farmers to salvage crops from heavy rain and message had been sent through WhatsApp to ensure necessary precautions,” said Sutantra Kumar Airy, director, Punjab agriculture department.

Floods in parts of Bihar, West Bengal, Assam and Odisha have damaged paddy but remedial measures can be taken.“In these flood-prone states, farmers can compensate the loss with late varieties cultivated in nurseries. So, it is unlikely to affect output,” said a senior agriculture ministry official, adding that states had not reported crop damage. He said floods can help rejuvenate degraded soil.

The planting of soya bean and cotton in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra also suffered due to excessive rains. However, there is no report of much damage to groundnut sown in Kutch and Saurashtra regions of Gujarat, which also received heavy rainfall during last week.

“Overall, late surge in rainfall after a dry June has done good to agriculture. Output is likely to be marginally better than last year,” said DK Joshi, chief economist, Crisil.



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