Nagaland is looking at a drought-like situation with the delay in the arrival of monsoon, state Agriculture Minister G Kaito Aye said on Wednesday. Addressing a press conference, he said the state is witnessing peculiar weather this year and a drought-like condition is feared if there is no rain within the next few weeks.
The state is facing rainfall deficiency of 20-59 percent, except for the Mon district where the rainfall is in excess of 48 percent, as per Nagaland State Disaster Management Authority (NSDMA) data. The state also witnessed infestation of Fall Army Worm (FAW) in maize, while commercial plants, including cardamom, dried up because of insufficient rain, the minister said.
Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio convened a meeting of Agriculture and Horticulture departments on Tuesday to take stock of the drought-like situation in the state, Aye said. The state government is taking up the matter with the Centre for necessary measures to mitigate the problems faced by the farmers, he said.
This scarcity of rainfall is especially affecting the jhum section with seeds drying up, Horticulture Advisor Mhathung Yanthan said. The anguish of the farmers is compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
The state government is taking all measures to mitigate the situation, he asserted. The Agri and Allied Department is planning to distribute seeds of potato, oilseeds, and vegetables for the early rabi season to compensate the farmers for the anticipated loss, Yanthan said.
Agriculture Production Commissioner Y Kikheto Sema said 70 percent of the farmers in the state are involved in jhum cultivation, but in the wake of hardly any rains between December last year and April, the effect has been adverse with poor germination and wilting of standing crops. The area affected by deficient rains is 68,662 ha of jhum fields in 915 villages in almost all the districts, he said.
Terraced rice cultivation (upland) and wet terraced rice cultivation have also been affected due to deficient rains in all the districts, causing a delay in land preparation and sowing, he said. The rice production of the state, which was 5.51 lakh mt in 2020-21, is now anticipated to reduce to 1.66 lakh mt in the current year, a drop of 70 percent if the dry spell continues, he said.
The shortage of rainfall has not only affected the production of seasonal crops but it has also affected commercial crops such as large cardamom, fruits and vegetables, besides fishery and piggery, he said. The situation further aggravated due to infestation by FAW in the last week of March, affecting 3048.45 hectares of maize crop in 334 villages, Sema said.
Despite the timely intervention, the FAW infestation could not be completely neutralised, he said. Foreseeing the drought-like situation, the Agri and Allied Department distributed seeds and planting materials for re-sowing in the affected jhum fields. Even then, it was not able to achieve the desired result due to a shortfall of rain, he said.
With more than 70 percent of the state population dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, the damage will be huge with an anticipated crop loss of up to 70 percent, he said. A committee has been formed by the state government to monitor and review the ground situation as per the reports received from the fields.
The state government has also directed all the officers of the Agri and Allied Department to remain in the station and closely monitor the ground situation.