A scorching sun... lakes and rivers drying up... parched earth... an acute shortage of water... and dead or dying crop. The multiple heatwaves that have swept across many parts of India since March have wreaked havoc on the agricultural community.
At Shyam Dhakre's 5-acre plantation in Danapur in Maharashtra's Akola area, the situation is grim. His entire harvest of bananas, worth lakhs of rupees, has been destroyed by the heat, a fall in the water table, and disrupted irrigation systems due to power cuts.
Dhakre said, “The crop is getting destroyed because of the high temperatures. We are trying to use net to cover the plants, but the temperature is so high that it's not helping. Also, banana plants need ample water and because of the power cuts, irrigation is also not possible.”
It's not just banana plantations that are struggling. In Maharashtra's Amravati, orange farmer Arun Jumle has already spent over Rs 5 lakh in sowing season, and is now worried he won't even break even this year.
“Usually 3,000-4,000 oranges grow on one plant. But this year, because of the heat, the fruits have dried and now we will hardly get 200-300 oranges per plant. This is going to cause huge losses”, Jumle said.
Even farmers who grow crops like papayas, groundnuts, tomatoes, okra, wheat and mangoes are distraught.
State governments have said they are studying the situation, but no concrete relief packages have been announced so far. The Centre admits that the weather has resulted in lower crop output, especially wheat... but again, no relief measures have come in.
Estimates suggest that for wheat alone, pan-India losses could come in at around Rs 4,500 crore, with production dropping 3-4 percent.
Loss estimates for the other crops are still being extrapolated but early indications are that the numbers will be sizeable. The bigger worry now, is that this year's weather patterns and water scarcity could lead to problems with next year's crop as well.
Pushan Sharma, Director at CRISIL Research believes that there will be impact on the crops due to the heat wave in Punjab, Haryana, Western UP and some parts of Rajasthan. He said, “If the temperatures remains elevated for next 15 days, there will be some impact on kharif season as early sown cotton and paddy crops will also get affected.”
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For now, farmers are holding out hope that governments will step in with some relief measures. They say that without such support, not only will they suffer losses this year, they will not be able to afford the next planting season, which will have a cascading effect on their fortunes.