Famine fear in West Bengal

Rain shortfall may lead to dire consequences in West Bengal. The state recorded a deficit of over 45 percent in rainfall received in two successive months of June-July. Now, the state’s Agriculture Department officials are fearing a dire picture if August does not bring enough rainfall to compensate for some of the deficit.

While June saw a shortfall of 48 percent, July did not bring in any significant relief with the deficit figure at 46 percent for the month. This is one of the worst rain shortfalls in recent years. Such concerns have surfaced after over a decade since the state witnessed a similar shortfall back in 2010. However, the deficit never crossed 40 percent unlike the current scenario.

The time of sowing of Aman paddy in West Bengal is generally from middle of July to middle of August, as per agriculture expert and All India Kisan Sabha leader Samar Ghosh. Seed beds do not become suitable for sowing of seeds unless enough rainfall is received during the period, the expert added. There are chances of a major delay in the start of the sowing period. This could hugely impact production.

Paddy sowing could be done in only 2.08 lakh hectares out of the target of 52 lakh hectares, as per state Agriculture Department data till the middle of July. Aus paddy sowing has only been possible in 1.1 lakh of the 2.08 lakh hectares. This has brought out concerns over uncertainty of the particular paddy variety’s production in the ongoing farming season. 

The biggest concern for officials is the dismal rate of sowing in East Burdwan district, considered the granary of West Bengal. This could result in more rice in the open market in the days ahead, in a situation like 2010. 

“At the same time, the worst affected will be the sharecroppers and as many of them will become jobless,” Professor of Economics PK Mukhopadhyay said.

Principal Agriculture Advisor to the state government P. Majumdar also admitted the grave situation in West Bengal. The government is monitoring the situation and remedial measures to ensure that the probable losses do not impact farmers.

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Originally published at www.dnaindia.com

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