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Farmers wary of paddy crop damage ahead of Hudhud

As cyclone Hudhud inches towards the east coast, farmers are wary of large scale crop destruction, particularly kharif paddy, which is all set to be harvested in the next few days.

Cyclone Hudhud is expected to intensify into a very severe cyclonic storm in the next few hours, according to the latest bulletin by the India Meteorological Department (IMD). The cyclone will cross the north Andhra Pradesh coast around Visakhapatnam by the forenoon of 12 October, with wind speed as high as 155 kmph along and off North Andhra Pradesh coast.

Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal, are three major rice producing states in the country. In West Bengal, which accounts for nearly 16 per cent, the highest among all states, October is the main season for paddy harvest. The season accounts for more than 80 per cent of total rice production in the state. This year, paddy has been harvested over nearly 4 million hectares of land, which in normal conditions would produce about 14 million tonne of paddy.

“This year, the area under paddy production is less by a hectare of two in West Bengal. Those farmers who have grown the paddy variety of 120 days cycle are harvesting their crops early due to the possibility of storm. However, for the other variety, which grows in 140 days, farmers are bracing for a large scale damage,” said Pranab Chatterjee, professor at Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya (BCKV). Coastal districts of Purba Medinipore, South and North 24 Parganas are some of the major rice producing districts in West Bengal.

The undivided Andhra Pradesh accounted for nearly 13 per cent of the country’s overall rice production, while Orissa accounts for about 7 per cent of the total production. In Orissa, Paddy is to be harvested in nearly 4 million hectares, out of nearly million hectare, in Orissa in the next few days.

“At this stage, if the paddy fields are inundated, there is a risk of total crop failure, particularly in Andhra Pradesh,” according to R Sundaresan, Executive Director, All India Rice Exporters Association (AIREA).

India’s total rice production during the Kharif season is close to 104 million tonnes. In Andhra Pradesh, paddy production is close to 12.9 million tones, while that in Odisha the production is close to 7 million tonnes.

With an anticipation of crop damage, those farmers who had been doing early harvest have been facing shortage of labourers.

“There has been an acute shortage of labouerer for early harvest, as most of the them have been preferring work under NREGS scheme, where the wages are high,” said Chatterjee.

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