Bivek Mathur | Dec 14, 2021 | 6 min read
54-year-old Amir Mohammad from Makhanpur Gujjran has lost half of the paddy crop sown over 76 Kanals of his land (Picture credit - Bivek Mathur)
Farmers protest petty relief amounts as crops on 1.9 lakh hectares damaged; rice mill owners suffer losses as Basmati procurement, exports hit.
Jammu: Rohit Choudhary, a farmer in Jammu district’s Ranbir Singh Pura (RS Pura) area, had little idea what nature had in store for him when he sowed paddy on his four acres of land in July. He was devastated when an unseasonal hailstorm, that wreaked havoc across Jammu and Kashmir on October 23, ravaged around 70 percent of his crop.
KK Sharma, the Director of Agriculture, Jammu district, told 101Reporters that following an assessment of losses, teams from the revenue and agriculture departments concluded that the hailstorm, coupled with an unprecedented rainfall of 80–100 mm, damaged 1.9 lakh hectares of paddy, vegetables, oilseeds and several other crops in 10 districts of Jammu division.
“The standing paddy and paddy in the cut-and-spread stage were severely affected. Moreover, grain shattering due to hail-storm added to the crop loss,” said Sharma, adding that the physical loss to the paddy crop was 70–75 percent, whereas the economic loss was assessed as almost 100 percent.
Sharma said that the most affected districts were Jammu (100 percent), Samba (100 percent in Vijaypur and Ramgarh areas) and Kathua (70–80 percent in plain areas). “The hilly areas of Kathua and a few other districts also witnessed huge losses. Rabi-sown vegetables, potato and oilseeds (Toria) also suffered 100 percent damage,” he said.
Paddy crop on more than 100,000 hectares suffered 70–100 percent damage, vegetables grown on 5000 hectares suffered 100 percent damage and oilseeds (Toria) on around 100 hectares were damaged. Potato and fodder (Berseem) planted on an area of 50 hectares were also fully damaged, Sharma said.
Heavy losses and scant relief in sight
Sharma told 101Reporters that 100 percent damages were reported by the agriculture department’s seed multiplication farms of paddy, oilseeds and potato, whereas the damages in their farms of pulses were pegged at 70–100 percent. “The natural calamity has reduced the availability of high-quality and certified seeds for the next season,” he said.
(Above) A paddy field damaged by unseasonal hailstorm in RS Pura Tehsil in Jammu district (Photo courtesy of social media); (Below) Paddy in cut stage destroyed by hailstorm and rainfall in Makhanpur Gujjran village in RS Pura Tehsil (Picture Credit - Bivek Mathur)
According to Sharma, only a total of 43,220 farmers — 20,452 paddy farmers and 22,768 maize farmers — had insured their crops under the government’s crop insurance scheme in Jammu, Samba and Udhampur districts. This covered crops on a total area of 19,529 hectares — 9,819 hectares of paddy and 9,710 hectares of maize. Claims of these farmers were being processed for disbursement of relief, he said, adding: “The farmers who have neither insured nor notified their crops are being compensated according to NDRF/SDRF norms.”
In Jammu district, where paddy and vegetable crops on around 2000 hectares of land were damaged by the hailstorm, the district administration has proposed a compensation of Rs 13,500 per hectare. Rakesh Dubey, the nodal officer for the assessment of the crop losses, said that Rs 52.78 crore has been tentatively earmarked as relief for the district under the SDRF norms, and the amount would be disbursed to 98,750 beneficiaries. “Affected farmers will receive Rs 13,500 per hectare,” he said.
Amir Mohammad, 54, a farmer at Makhanpur Gujjran Village in Jammu district lost 50 percent of the Basmati rice he had sown on his 3.84 hectares of land because of the hailstorm. He, however, has refused to apply for compensation, saying that the compensation amount sanctioned by the government was a pittance considering the “actual damages”.
“Rs 13,500 per hectare is not enough to compensate the losses because the total costs of cultivation of the crop on a hectare of land, including those of renting tractors, labour, fertilizers, weedicides and pesticides, come to around Rs 40,000 to 50,000. Hence, in my opinion, the government is making a mockery of the word compensation,” said Mohammad.
The farmer also said that getting the compensation amount released was a herculean task in RS Pura Tehsil. He said the government had assigned Patwaris in the revenue department the task of assessing the crop losses and distribution of relief. “A Patwari is the busiest employee in the revenue department. Practically, a farmer will have to put on hold the sowing of his next crop if he has to arrange all required revenue documents and photographs and get the work done by a Patwari,” Mohammad said.
Inspection of rain- and hailstorm-damaged paddy crops post-harvest in RS Pura (Photo courtesy of social media)
Basmati procurement down by 70%
Besides causing heavy losses to the farmers, the unexpected hailstorm and rainfall have also affected the procurement and the export of Basmati rice from the RS Pura belt.
Rattan Singh, a local Basmati and wheat trader who procures the crops directly from the farmers of Darsopur, Roi Morh, Gadigarh, Tanda, Bagga Jana and several other villages and later sells the same to local rice mills, said his procurement figures dropped by 65–70 percent this season. He said that he had procured 1,800 quintals of Basmati rice in the previous year, whereas this season, he could procure only 550 quintals.
Romi Jojra, a rice mill owner in RS Pura said he suffered a loss of Rs 60–65 lakh this season because of the decline in the procurement of rice owing to the crop damages in the recent hailstorm. He said he could procure only 500 tonnes of Basmati rice this year — only 20 percent of what he had procured in the last season.
Mill owners lose advances
Romi said that apart from the loss due to low procurement, he and other rice mill owners in RS Pura also suffered losses relating to loans extended to the farmers. “Rice mill owners in RS Pura maintain good relations with paddy farmers. They pay around 60 percent of them a fixed amount of money as loans prior to the sowing of paddy. Normally the farmers repay the amount after the harvest. But in case of a crop failure due to natural calamities, the farmers do not refund the amount. This causes losses to the rice mill owners,” he said, adding that the developments also impacted the export of high-quality Basmati rice from the state.
Anil Sharma, the sole exporter of Basmati rice from Jammu and the owner of Sarveshwar brand Basmati rice, did not respond to queries by 101Reporters till the filing of this report.
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