P. Samuel Jonathan

Steep fall in price likely

GUNTUR: Untimely rains that lashed the district for the past four days spelt doom for the farmers. Farmers cultivating Chillies are the worst hit, followed by Maize and paddy. Horticulture and Agriculture officials have estimated the loss to be about Rs.70 crore, out of which Chillies alone account for Rs.60 crore.

While the elected representatives from the district have been demanding the market intervention by Markfed and procurement of discoloured Chillies at a fair price, the decision would be taken after a thorough survey by a team to be sent by the State Government.

The district received a record average rainfall of 73 mm, with Medikonduru village in Sattenapalli mandal receiving 132.3 mm, followed by Pedakurapadu (130.8mm) and Karlapalem village in Bapatla mandal (125.6).

“The loss is widespread and more than 75 per cent of the crop harvested in the second picking and left for drying on the fields has been affected and likely to be infected with white pod disease leading to discoloration,” Department of Horticulture Assistant Director D. Madhusudana Reddy told The Hindu on Monday.

Among the standing crops, maize was the worst affected with 7,258 hectares out of 60, 654 hectares with coastal belt getting water logged.

Water logging of fields was also reported at several places in Palnadu region. There was not much damage to Paddy, Green Gram and Tobacco.

“Farmers following zero tillage methods in cultivating maize are the worst affected as the adventitious root system makes them vulnerable to water logging. We will be sending enumeration teams and based on the reports, compensation will be paid to the farmers,” Agriculture Department Joint Director P. Ajith Kumar said.

While the picking season usually starts in the first week of February and ends in the last week of March, acute scarcity of labour forced most of the chilly growers to hurry the pickings in the second week of March itself. The harvested crop was left to dry on the open fields exposing them to the vagaries of nature.

“There are chances that at least 10-15 quintals in each hectare being affected by the white pod disease due to prolonged exposure to moisture. The damage is more extensive in the case of fresh pickings,” Mr. Reddy said.

Chilli was cultivated in 65,000 hectares in the district and this year bountiful harvest was witnessed with an average of 70,000 bags flooding the Agriculture Market Yard in Guntur.

The average price offered for quality Chillies ranged between Rs.3,000 and Rs.3,500.

Horticulture officials expect a drastic fall in the prices as the discoloured crop would have few takers.