Drought, floods trigger India`s food fears
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Last Updated: Sunday, October 11, 2009, 12:29
  
New Delhi: It's two diagonally opposite natural calamities -- first drought and now floods -- hitting India's food production in a span of just about three months.

Experts are wary that the country's food stocks, especially that of pulses, are now being washed away by floods in the south, after a drought-like situation in north and north-east dried up the paddy and cereal production a few months ago.

Planning Commission member and renowned agricultural economist Abhijit Sen said the recent floods, following the droughts could have an adverse impact on the country's food grain production if not so severely.

"The drought had a severe impact on rice production and now the production of pulses will also be low because of the floods," Sen told a news agency.

The failure of the monsoon has led to 22 percent less rain than normal in north, northeast and some parts of western India and now flooding in the south has left more than 250 people killed, 1.5 million homeless and over 200,000 homes destroyed.

The recent floods, considered the worst in decades for the southern region, have damaged hundreds of crores worth of crops and could lead to severe food shortages, officials and aid agencies said.

Though the agriculture ministry has not yet come up with an estimate, the rough estimate is that there will be a decline in production of rice and cereals by 10 million tonnes because of the failed monsoon, Sen said.

Sen, however, stressed the drought and subsequent deluge will not have any serious impact on the food security of the country.

He said the government currently has the food stock of 17 million tonnes to meet any shortage.

Other experts and officials, however, think the double disaster would severely impact the country's food production and dent its food security goals.

"The floods have devastated the crops in all affected area of Karnataka and it pose a risk of greater food scarcity," said N G Narayana, general secretary, Indian Red Cross Society, Karnataka.

Expressing similar views, Rajesh Shukla, senior fellow at economic think-tank National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), said, "There will be an adverse impact on the food production of the country because of the floods and the drought like situation prior to that."

"However, the situation can be managed with a proper distribution of food stocks across the country," he suggested.

"The government need to take a little extra care in managing public distribution system so that the middlemen should not take away the share of the needly people," Shukla added.

Jayakumar Christian, India director for World Vision, an NGO currently working in the flood-hit areas in Karnataka, said the floods have washed away summer crops completely and there is little hope for winter crops as well.

"The worse is that the land will now not be ready for the winter crops. It's a double blow for the farmers and now they are considering to migrate to neighbouring state Maharashtra," Christian told PTI from Bijapur, Karnataka.

In Andhra Pradesh, called the country's rice bowl, the deluge have rubbed salt to the injuries of farmers who had not even recovered from the damages done by a bad monsoon at the beginning of the season.

According to state Agriculture Minister N Raghuveera Reddy, the preliminary estimate has put the loss, only on account of the floods, at a staggering Rs 1,250 crore to the agriculture sector.

The flood caused by Krishna and Tungabhadra rivers have left the paddy crop in over 50,000 hectares devastated.

While the state agriculture department had estimated that paddy output will be about 85 lakh tonnes in Kharif season, the production will now be 30 lakh tonnes less due to drought and the deluge, Reddy said.

With paddy crop having suffered a major damage, prices of rice in the sate has reportedly shot up by a minimum of Rs 400 per quintal over the last two days as unscrupulous traders have got back to hoarding.

The price of rice in retail market has jumped from Rs 36 a kg to Rs 40 a kg for the preferred varieties.

Bureau Report


First Published: Sunday, October 11, 2009, 12:29


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