Farmers’ hopes rest on a final monsoon burst

By TheHindu on 28 Aug 2017 | read

The government is keeping a close watch on the progress of the errant monsoon, even as it prepares to formulate a contingency plan for farmers to tackle the impact of rainfall deficit on various crops.

Officials in the Agriculture Department said the southwest monsoon was expected to revive during its fag end, bringing good rain to most parts of the State, though they feel it would not make up for the accumulated rainfall deficit.

“For now, the situation has turned into a crisis only in Palakkad and Wayanad districts where farming activities have been hard hit. We are monitoring the weather conditions,” says Director of Agriculture A.M. Sunilkumar.

What is worrying officials and planners is the declining trend in the rainfall during the southwest monsoon which contributes almost 85% of the total rainfall in Kerala. The rainfall deficit was 24% in 2012, 26% in 2015, and 34% in 2016.

The season’s rainfall data during the southwest monsoon this year shows a deficit of 25%, with the State receiving only 1,287.6 mm against a normal of 1,713.5 mm. Wayanad district has the highest deficit of 55%, followed by Thiruvananthapuram with 31%, Kannur 29%, and Idukki 28%. Experts fear that a heavy rainfall deficit would be disastrous for many crops. Vice Chancellor, Kerala Agricultural University, P. Rajendran, said a protracted dry spell would impact paddy and cash crops. “While upland paddy farms would be hit by the lack of water for irrigation, salinity intrusion could play havoc in low-level farms like in Kuttanad. Spices like pepper and most horticulture crops would also witness a drop in output.” Dr. Rajendran advocates a shift to short-duration crops to tide over the situation, though he feels that the lesser yield would have to be factored in. Development of drought-tolerant varieties also assumes priority in the context of changing climatic conditions, he says. Experts recommend micro-irrigation and plasticulture to maximise the use of available water for farming. Meanwhile, the preliminary report on the crop damage due to the rainfall deficit during the southwest monsoon period from June 1 shows an estimated loss of ₹95.36 crore across an area of 7,801.92 hectares. As many as 26,455 farmers have been affected.