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Deficit rain dashes hopes of Ramnad farmers

Special Correspondent
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Long dry spell following failure of northeast monsoon results in sharp decline in paddy production

Hopes of farmers repeating a bumper paddy crop in the year 2012 were dashed as the expected rain from the northeast monsoon also failed.

Much to the envy of their counterparts in the delta region, farmers in this drought-prone district had come out with a stunning performance in 2011, producing a record 6.72 lakh tonnes of paddy.

Their best hopes of coming out with a repeat performance in 2012 were dashed in the wake of a long dry spell following the failure of northeast monsoon, especially in November. “The failure of rain in November had cost us dearly. All our efforts have gone in vain,” Ka. Sakthimohan, Joint Director of Agriculture, said.

The department was yet to assess the extent of damage to the crops, but visit to the fields indicated that there will be a sharp decline in paddy production as there would be very little yield from 74,000 hectares of rain-fed areas and less than 50 per cent yield from 50,000 hectares of irrigated areas.

“Last year (2011) the average yield per hectare was 5,119 kg and this year we expect it to be only around 2,000 or 2,500 kg. The total yield is expected to be around 1.2 lakh tonnes,” he told The Hindu . “This year (2012) we began on a promising note making all arrangements for a bumper crop, but the nature has let us down,” he added.

As instructed by Collector K. Nanthakumar, the department had ensured adequate stocks of fertilizers in all the Primary Agriculture Cooperative Societies and provided timely loans to farmers, but all the efforts have gone in vain, he said.

Though the southwest monsoon played truant, the farmers nursed high hopes as the northeast monsoon was timely with a copious rainfall in October. However, there was a long dry spell as there were no rains in November and December. This has spelt doom to the crops, which were in flowering stage, he said.

The district received 86.65 mm of rainfall against the normal rainfall of 135.3 mm during the southwest monsoon. Interestingly, the district received 449.37 mm of rain during the northeast monsoon, against the normal rainfall of 501.6 mm, but the rains were not useful to the crops as about 55 per cent of the total rainfall during the monsoon occurred in October itself.

In October, the district received 330.8 mm of rainfall against the normal rainfall of 182.6 mm, but they were not well distributed. The rainfall occurred mostly in the coastal areas, that too in couple of quick spells, resulting in drainage, he said. November turned out to be disastrous for farmers as there was a shortfall of 149.74 per cent. The district received only 56.56 mm of rain against the normal rainfall of 206.3 mm in 2012, compared to a copious 334.59 mm in November 2011, he said. “From January to December 2012, there were only 29 rainy days against 53 normal rainy days,” he added.

After the harvest season in January, the farmers would move to the second crops of pulses, groundnut, cotton and sugarcane in February with little availability of water, Mr Sakthimohan said. Pulses would be cultivated in 650 hectares, oil seeds (gingelly and groundnut) in 700 hectares, cotton in 1,000 hectares and sugarcane in 100 hectares, he said. The department had adequate stock of seeds, including five tonnes of cotton seeds, he added.

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