Crucial paddy, onion, sugarcane, and horticulture crops have been lost in the floods in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, though the quantum of loss is being assessed. Paddy and edible oil crops have already been affected by the drought in the northern States, and the shortfall in kharif production has been estimated to be 16 million tonnes.

With the retail prices of onion, sugarcane and groundnut already ruling high , the damage to these crops will have far-reaching implications on their availability and prices.

Indicating that the country might have to import rice to meet its requirements, Minister of State for Agriculture K.V. Thomas said here on Tuesday that the government might cut the import duty on rice. Paddy cultivation was lower this kharif than 5.92 million hectares last year.

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of a conference of the State Food Processing Ministers, he said: “Paddy and sugarcane production may be lower owing to the floods.”

Union Agriculture Secretary T. Nanda Kumar told The Hindu that the Agriculture Commissioners of the three affected States were assessing the situation. “We are assessing the situation. If the water recedes in 72 hours, there may not be as much damage as is being perceived.”

However, officials from Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, who are here to take part in the conference, said the crop damage could be intensive. G.K. Vasanthkumar, Karnataka Horticulture Director and Additional Secretary (Food Processing and Harvest Technology), said there would be large-scale damage to the early onion crop, chillies, grapes and pomegranate.

Karnataka is the third largest producer of onions. With the commodity already selling at Rs.28 a kg , consumers are in for a hard time.

“The pomegranate crop has been totally washed away,” Mr. Kumar said. The State will also lose its groundnut crop; already the area under groundnut is lower by 8.14 lakh hectares this kharif than the last season.

A.V. Ranga Rao of Andhra Pradesh, who is a member of the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) Task Force, said the crop damage in the was heavy in Kurnool. “Cotton, Sapota, Banana and paddy have been hit.”

An official said Maharashtra would lose the early sown coarse cereals. “It is a difficult situation we are looking at. The floods in these crucial States could not have come at a worse time when the kharif crop has already been affected by the drought in the north-western parts of the country,” a senior official said. The Centre has asked the States to expedite provision of new seeds to farmers, who have suffered losses, as soon as they are in a position to re-plant.

Paddy and sugarcane production may be lower owing to the floods

Agriculture Commissioners of affected States assessing the situation