Officials carrying out survey to assess actual damage

Officials began assessing the damage wrought by Cyclone Thane to crops in Tamil Nadu, but said on Saturday that it was too early to quantify it now.

While official sources were prepared to say that about one lakh hectares, especially of paddy, have been affected, they contended that it was too early to say anything accurate regarding the actual damage. The total area under paddy at present is about 11 lakh hectares.

“Our (agriculture) department officials have started assessing the situation in all the districts that had cyclone impact. Unless the extent of damage is more than 50 per cent, we cannot deem it damage”, they added.

They said paddy crop in Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Villupuram, Kanchipuram, parts of Thanjavur,Tiruvarur and Thiruvallur have been affected. Besides, sugarcane in 6,000 hectares, cotton in 2,000 hectares and coconut in about 500 hectares have been affected. Other crops like millets and pulses would not have suffered much. While millets are raised in about 3.6 lakh hectares, pulses cover about 2.1 lakh hectares.

The State has an ambitious target this year (2011-12). As against the production of 62.53 lakh tonnes of paddy in 2010-11, it has planned 85 lakh tonnes this year. Its overall food grain target this year is 115 lakh tonnes as against the achievement of 85.35 lakh tonnes last year.

The Department was quite confident that it would be able to do far better than last year in terms of paddy production as the kuruvai season has proved extremely bountiful.

The Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation has procured as much as 5.24 lakh tonnes of paddy during this kuruvai season as against 1.66 lakh tonnes recorded during the corresponding period last year.

The officials were confident of procurement of another 21 lakh tonnes of paddy in the next few months, thus improving the procurement at least by three lakh tonnes. Even the direct purchase centres, numbering about 1500, are to start functioning in the next few days as per the original plan.

But Friday's cyclone, which battered a number of districts including Cuddalore and Nagapattinam very severely, has thrown a spanner into the works.

“The cyclone has come at the most inopportune moment because paddy is ready for harvest in several areas. But, providentially, the rain has not been very heavy in districts like Thanjavur, which is a blessing in disguise as that would have hurt the crops seriously. In Thanjavur the rainfall was just 2.8 cm on Friday”, the sources said.

In a couple of more days, an accurate assessment of the damage would be carried out, they added.