CHENNAI : Torrential showers in several Tamil Nadu districts 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 Southwest monsoon and an encouraging forecast for Northeast monsoon, Agriculture Department had encouraged farmers to go in for direct sowing of paddy as against the conventional method, as time was lost during the current samba season due to 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, officials hoped for a bumper harvest by setting a target of 100 lakh tonnes for 2017-18.
As agricultural activities gathered pace, the Northeast monsoon began with a bang and messed up farmer’s plans. 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, said.
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 who 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.
COMPENSATION FOR CROP LOSS HAS TO WAIT
A top officer of the Agriculture Department said the survey of crop loss could be held only after the water in the fields recede completely. “We cannot carry out the crop loss survey now because the fields are still inundated. The government will decide on compensating the farmers after assessing the damage,” he said.