Gargi Parsai

Union Agriculture Ministry monitoring the situation

NEW DELHI: The sudden hailstorm, rainfall and high-velocity wind in Delhi, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and Punjab on Friday has caused some damage to the standing wheat crop that was ready for harvest in parts of these States.

Till late evening the Union Agriculture Ministry was trying to get reports on the extent of damage and was closely monitoring the situation. It may have to revise the initial estimate of a wheat production of 74.5 million tonnes this rabi season.

Expressing serious concern, official sources said that at a time when inflation was touching seven per cent, damage to the standing rabi crop was the last thing the country needed. There are reports of damage to the mango crop in western U.P. and some vegetables around Delhi.

Speaking to The Hindu, Deputy Director-General (Natural Resource Management) in the Indian Council of Agriculture Research, A.K. Singh said the extent of the hailstorm would have to be assessed. “But hailstorm would definitely damage the ripened wheat grain and winds would hit the standing crop, leading to its lodging. The quality and weight of the ripened wheat grain would be hit.”

Although the area under wheat crop this year is lower at 277.48 lakh hectares against last year’s 282.14 lakh hectares, the initial expectation was for a production of about 74.5 million tonnes of wheat.

According to the official sources in Haryana, there has been lodging of the standing wheat and mustard crops in the State and in parts of western U.P. Sources said while early variety of wheat and mustard has been harvested in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, there was serious concern about the wheat and mustard that was ready for harvest. Besides wheat, the area under coarse cereals this rabi is lower at 68.16 lakh hectares against 70.57 lakh hectares last year.

There is a decline in the sown area under pulses as well. Against 142.25 lakh hectares sown last year, only 134.81 lakh hectares has been cultivated this year. There has been a decline in the sowing of gram, lentil, peas and moong.

In edible oils too, there has been a reduction in the cultivation of rapeseed and mustard, safflower, sunflower, and linseed oils. The total area sown this rabi season is 95.77 lakh hectares against 102.04 lakh hectares cultivated last year.