THE TIMES OF INDIA
03 March 2019
Karnataka is staring at a huge fall in food production after having seen severe drought conditions during both Kharif and Rabi seasons in 2018-19.
Officials in the agriculture department have estimated the slump in food grains and pulses production to be around 26%. The state had set a target of growing 135 lakh tonnes of cereals and pulses on 107 lakh hectares of land. But, the total yield is expected to be around 100 lakh tonnes by March-end.
“Drought witnessed during two successive crop seasons has hit the yield. The slump comes after the glut the state recorded due to excessive rain towards the end of 2017,” said an official from the agriculture department. “We will get to know the exact number by the month-end when we will get the final report,” said officials.
As the state suffered prolonged dry spells during monsoon last year, sowing was not complete. It was done on 66.4 lakh hectares against the targeted area of 74.7 lakh hectares during the kharif season. For rabi crops, only 27.5 lakh hectares saw sowing when the targeted area was 31.8 lakh hectares. Both kharif and rabi seasons saw a huge amount of crop loss — about 15 lakh hectares — due to failure of monsoon.
Prakash Kammaradi, chairman of Agriculture Price Commission (APC), said while the rice production remains almost flat at 46.3 lakh tonnes, it is ragi, jowar and tur dal which are among the worst-hit crops.
The production of ragi has fallen from 15.5 lakh tonnes in 2017-18 to 7.4 lakh tonnes in the current fiscal. The state had produced 12 lakh tonnes of jowar last year, but the yield has dipped to 8.4 lakh tonnes this year. Tur dal production has fallen from 8.4 lakh to 5.5 lakh tonnes.
Such is the gravity of the situation that APC has not found jowar for procurement even after setting up 28 procurement centres across Karnataka.
Kammaradi said the government needs to procure 50,000 tonnes of ragi per month on an average for the Anna Bhagya scheme, but the figure has fallen to 8,000 tonnes. The government has set up 104 and 86 procurement centres for rice and ragi respectively to buy them at Rs 1,750 and Rs 2,897 per quintal.
“Although the availability of rice is a little encouraging, the cause of worry is the scarcity of ragi and jowar, which are the staple food in southern and northern parts of rural Karnataka,” said Kammaradi.
RS Deshpande, an agronomist, said instead of pressing panic button, the government should look at measures such as procuring the existing stock. He said the concern of low yield causing food inflation is far-fetched.
“The situation of food stock across India is still good with many states having surplus production and storage. The worry, however, is that the state government has not still woken up to the real crisis dogging the agriculture sector. While the urgent need is to procure crops from farmers, the government is not proactive in that direction,” said Deshpande.
Kurubur Shanthakumar, president of All-India Sugarcane Growers, said the government has failed to set up procurement centres in many districts. “We fear the state will witness severe crisis in the agriculture sector after this summer. While under-production of food is just a part of the problem, the government’s inaction to procure the available stock is only adding to the crisis,” said Shanthakumar.
This article was originally published in The Times of India.