By M. Raghuram
Standing paddy crops in at least a million acres or 404,685 hectares across eight districts of Andhra Pradesh — its rice bowl — may have been affected as a result of rains caused by Cyclone Michaung that made landfall on December 5, an expert has told Down To Earth (DTE). This would translate into losses of Rs 4,000 crore.
The eight districts affected by Michaung — Nellore, Prakasam, Baptala, Krishna, West Godavari, Konaseema, Kakinada and East Godavari — are presently marking the Kharif harvest season. They have 45 per cent of their land under paddy cultivation, contributing six million tonnes (MT) of the 12.85 MT of rice grown in Andhra Pradesh.
“The cyclone has brought heavy rains coupled with winds for fast three day has affected agrlicultural crops mainly paddy in the districts of Nellore, Prakasam, Guntur, Krishna, West Godavari, East Godavari, Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam where more than 50 per cent of paddy is not yet harvested. Some paddy is in heaps and some is on the threshing floors,” PV Satyanarayana, principal scientist in plant breeding (paddy) at the Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University Guntur, told DTE.
Around 8 to 10 lakh (1 million) acres of paddy crop at various stages is affected, according to Satyanarayana.
“The damage is likely to the tune of 2-2.5 MT of paddy. In terms of value, it may cross Rs 4,000 crore. In addition to the standing crops, the Rabi crop, which is at nursery stage in some areas, is also affected,” Satyanarayana added.
“We did not have rains for 100 days and our crops were grown in bright sunlight. But suddenly, these intense rains in large volumes had a devastating affect on the crop. An area of 850 kilometres around the coast had this unseasonal rain. Being a traditional paddy growing area, Andhra Pradesh grows 5.5 tonnes of paddy per hectare. Luckily, our farmers had harvested 50 per cent of the crop prior to the rains and warehoused it. But in the Godavari and Krishna deltas, 50 per cent of standing crops have been devastated,” Satyanarayana said.
The Andhra Pradesh Agriculture Department officials, however, said they are yet to assess the losses as rains are still battering the region. Right now, they are busy protecting the harvested crop from getting drenched.
The Paddy Farmers Association members in Krishna and Nellore districts were in tears. “Since we did not expect this kind of rain, we allowed the crop to be in the field for better maturing. Some of us have also grown premium varieties of rice that are used in highly evolved Indian rice dishes. In many places in both Krishna and Nellore districts and in the Godavari delta, the farmers were negotiating with bulk buyers of this premium variety of rice. Now, they have no produce to sell and they are on the verge of insolvency,” said Krishna Reddy and Ravula Rama Reddy, both activists of the All India Kisan Sabha.
Jagan announces relief
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy directed all officials and departments to stay vigilant and prepared for immediate relief and rescue efforts.
He virtually reviewed relief programmes in the cyclone-affected areas with the respective district officials, holding a virtual review in the disaster management cell of the government. Jagan directed officials to immediately restore electricity supply and provide compensation within 48 hours in case of loss of people and livestock.
He announced an immediate relief of Rs 22 crore. The crop loss assessment will be done. Senior Indian Administrative Service officers have been sent to eight districts and have been asked to file their reports on various types of losses to people, including livestock, human life and damage to property.
The Andhra Pradesh government will also set up 52 rehabilitation centres in Anakapalli district. Arrangements have been made to accommodate more than 60,000 people.
The government has also purchased 100,000 tonnes of grain for relief material. A special task force has also been constituted to oversee action to prevent 400,000 tonnes of grain from getting wet and unusable.
The government has also declared holidays for schools, colleges, and other educational institutions in Eluru district, where the onslaught has been the severest.
To mitigate any mishaps due to electric system failure, power ministry officials have been deployed in vantage points and a special toll free number has been set up in Eluru (9440902926)
Those who will be housed at relief camps will be provided with Rs 1,000 to 2,500 per person during their stay at the camp. The chief minister has also announced a relief amount of Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 for damaged and collapsed houses, respectively.
This article has been republished from The Down To Earth Magazine.