Farmers in Maharashtra’s rain-deficit Vidarbha region worry over kharif crops

Vidarbha region, which comprises eleven districts, received only 631 mm rain compared to the normal index of 705.1 mm, according to the Indian Meteorological Department.

With Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region having received 11 per cent less rain below normal this year, farmers are a worried lot. Nearly a month after sowing was completed in mid-July, farmers believe the quantity and quality of kharif crops will be hit badly if the deficit continues till the end of this month.

Although the state, as a whole, has received 7 per cent more rain between June 1 and August 22, it was mostly in Marathwada and Central Maharashtra. Drought-prone Marathwada, comprising eight districts, has received 533.4 mm rain so far compared to the usual 446 mm, a 20 per cent increase. Central Maharashtra received 595.6 mm against the normal 547 mm, an increase of 9 per cent.

But Vidarbha region, which comprises eleven districts, received only 631 mm rain compared to the normal index of 705.1 mm, according to the Indian Meteorological Department.

Devendra Pawar, a farmers’ leader in Yavatmal, said the monsoon rains had arrived on time this year. “But the rain pattern is erratic. Most districts in Vidarbha are rain-deficit. Once sowing is complete, rains are necessary to ensure healthy growth of crops or the saplings will shrivel and die,” he said, adding that using well water isn’t sustainable. “We need sufficient rainfall for rich harvest,” Pawar said.

Only three districts in Vidarbha received normal or above normal rains – Nagpur (674mm), Yavatmal (651.8 mm) and Washim (628.2 mm), with Washim and Yavatmal recording an increase of 7 per cent above normal. The remaining eight districts have experienced severe rain deficit.

Worst-hit Amravati received only 479.8 mm compared to the normal of 637.1 mm (25% deficit). Tribal district Gadchiroli recorded 750.8 mm against the normal 963.7 mm (22% deficit). Paddy-cultivating Gondiya district received 750.8mm rain against the normal 916.9 mm (21% deficit). Bhandara, meanwhile, registered 748.1 mm rain against the normal 863.9 mm (15% deficit).

Farmers in Buldhana, where rainfall has been 15 per cent below normal, have been relying on borewell water to keep their crops alive. In neighbouring Akola district, the deficit was 9 per cent.

Minister for Agriculture Dadasaheb Bhuse said kharif sowing across Maharashtra was almost complete. “Average rainfall in the state indicates a moderate monsoon, but there are some districts in Vidarbha and Marathwada where more rain is necessary. If rains continue, it will help farmers cope with the long dry spell.”

Officials in the agriculture department are still hopeful. “Monsoon trends show that rains are likely to continue till September. We hope it will benefit the rain-deficit districts,” an official said.

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