Rain pours cold water on food production plans

Officials forced to revise harvest targets as heavy rain leaves thousands of acres of paddy fields in Nagapattinam and Tiruvarur districts flooded; farmers who had opted for direct sowing affected the

Published: 15th November 2017 07:32 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th November 2017 08:31 AM   |  A+A-

A resident wading through the sewage mixed stagnated rain water at 4th main road, MKB Nagar, in the city on Thursday; and (R) another resident displaying the contaminated water she receives through the Metrowater tap | P Jawahar

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Torrential showers in several districts of Tamil Nadu could have a negative impact on food production in the State for the second consecutive year, as the unprecedented drought took a heavy toll on paddy cultivation last season.

Buoyed by the bounty of the Southwest monsoon and an encouraging forecast for the Northeast monsoon, authorities of the agriculture department had encouraged farmers to go in for direct sowing of paddy as against the conventional method, as precious time during the current samba season was lost due to the unavailability of water. The Mettur dam was opened for irrigation only on October 2. After the poor output of 60.32 lakh tonnes during 2016-17, the officials hoped for a bumper harvest by setting an official target of 100 lakh tonnes for 2017-18.

As agricultural activities gathered pace, the Northeast monsoon began with a bang and messed up the plans of farmers. Nagapattinam, located at the tail end of Cauvery delta region and Tiruvarur districts suffered the worst. “In Nagapattinam and Tiruvarur, paddy raised in thousands of acres has been damaged due to inundation and flooding. The crop damage will have adverse impact on overall food production in the State,” K Balakrishnan, general secretary of Tamil Nadu Farmers Association, told Express.

Farmers who opted for direct sowing were the worst-hit, as they began sowing only in September.
Swamimalai Vimalanathan, secretary of Thanjavur District Cauvery Farmers Protection Association, said, “The crop loss has been high for those to did direct sowing because of the heavy rain and resultant flooding of fields.” He added that the hope of reviving the submerged crops looked remote as the height of water clogging the fields was higher than the crops.

The area of direct sowing is estimated to be 0.697 lakh hectares in Nagapattinam district out of a total paddy coverage of 1.236 lakh hectares, while Tiruvarur accounted for 0.961 lakh hectare direct sowing out of 1.467 lakh hectare total coverage, according to officials.

Ponneri block in Tiruvallur district too suffered similar crop loss. However, officials are still keeping their fingers crossed. “Farmers need not lose hope completely. We shall try to save the crops as much as we can once water recedes,” an official said.

He said restoration activities have been initiated by the department and local officials are educating farmers on the methods to save the crops in inundated field.

K Balakrishnan and Vimalanathan urged the Tamil Nadu government to take steps to assess the damage to crop and compensate the farmers adequately.

When queried about the demand for compensation, a top officer of agriculture department said the survey of crop loss could be held only after the water in the fields recedes completely.

“We cannot carry out the survey of crop loss right now because the fields are still inundated. Once water recedes, we can begin the process. The government will decide on compensating the farmers after assessing the damage,” he told Express.

CM orders release of water from Mettur dam

Chennai: Accepting the requests of farmers, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Tuesday ordered release of water from Mettur dam for cultivation of groundnut and sesame. Water will be released for 13 days from November 17. Later, water will be let out in three phases. In all, 45,000 acres will be benefitted by the release.

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