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Jharkhand Farmers Face Uncertainty as Winter Rain Deficit Threatens Rabi Crops

Farmers in Jharkhand, who have yet to recover from losses sustained during the Kharif season drought, are facing new uncertainty as a result of an acute winter rain deficit, which is affecting Rabi crops, according to officials.

Shivam Dwivedi
Many farmers in Jharkhand rely solely on rain to cultivate their crops
Many farmers in Jharkhand rely solely on rain to cultivate their crops

"Jharkhand received only 0.3mm of rain from November 1 to February 16, compared to the normal average of 41.3mm. The state faced a 100% rain deficit in November, January, and February. The situation improved slightly in December, with a 96% deficit," according to a weather department official.

Scanty rainfall since last year has already hampered Rabi crop sowing, with 35% of total arable land lying fallow, according to agricultural department data. Rabi crops are typically planted between October and December. The exercise in Jharkhand will last until mid-January. "The state recorded 25% surplus rainfall in October but thereafter the weather remained almost dry. There was no rain in Jharkhand after December 26 last year," said an official of Ranchi Meteorological Centre.

The state received abundant rain in the final stages of the monsoon season, prompting the government to increase the target area for Rabi crop sowing to more than 15 lakh hectares this year, according to Mukesh Sinha, deputy director of the state agriculture department. However, sowing coverage of major Rabi crops such as pulses, wheat, and oilseeds was 10.26 lakh hectares this season, down from 10.98 lakh hectares the previous year.

"Acute rainfall deficit since November has impacted the sowing, with a considerable part of the arable land lying fallow. We will review the situation shortly and decide on measures that can be taken to provide relief to farmers, if necessary," as per an official. Agricultural experts expressed concern about the fate of farmers, who rely entirely on rainfall to produce crops.

Many farmers in Jharkhand rely solely on rain to cultivate their crops. Notably, the weather pattern is changing as well. We must have seeds that can adapt to this new environment. Currently, research is being conducted to develop drought-resistant seeds.

Jharkhand farmers faced drought during the previous Kharif season due to a 49% rain deficit in the first two months of the monsoon season, which is critical for planting rice, maize, millet, ragi, and pulses. However, the overall monsoon rain deficit in Jharkhand was 20% as of September 30.

The JMM-led government declared 226 of the state's 260 blocks "drought-hit" on October 29 and decided to provide a cash relief of Rs 3,500 to each affected farmer family under the chief minister's relief scheme. The state has also requested Rs 9,682 crore from the Centre as a drought relief package. Overall paddy production in the Kharif season of 2022-23 was 18.53 lakh tonne, compared to 53.08 lakh tonne in 2021-22, according to the agriculture department.

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