Drought, floods trigger India`s food fears

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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