As the extent of crop damage in Karnataka increased from 3.8 lakh to 5 lakh hectares on Tuesday, revised data showed that ragi, the go-to crop of poor farmers and staple of poor households, has become the worst-affected — accounting for 2.76 lakh hectares, or 55% of the total affected area.
While incessant rains over the last two weeks have hit both standing and harvested crops across the state, officials said the damage sustained by the ragi will leave lakhs of farmers in distress.
“Especially because the majority of affected farmers are from Kolar, Tumakuru and Chikkaballapur, who are vulnerable to the vagaries of the weather. Their fate is dependent on the outcome of the rabi season,” a senior official said.
Data showed that ragi was sown in 6.88 lakh ha in the Kharif season and rains have damaged 40% of it. In comparison, rains hit 39,000 ha of 2.2 lakh ha under paddy; 67,000 ha of 1.42 lakh hectares under maize; 14,000 hectares of 1.45 lakh hectares under Tur and 69,000 of 3.39 lakh hectares under groundnut.
Officials in the department noted that ragi is not only the key crop of farmers who can’t invest in costlier seeds and fertilisers but also the staple of poor families in about 10 districts of southern Karnataka.
“Considering that 70% of the landholdings belong to small and marginal farmers, we estimate that more than 1.5 lakh farmers have been hit by the rains,” a senior official said.
Principal Secretary S R Umashankar, who has been given additional charge of the Agriculture Department, said the government was aware of the matter.
“The chief minister has announced that families in the southern districts should be given 1 kg of ragi along with 5 kg PDS ration. The government is also working on the compensation for farmers under disaster relief funds to help mitigate the crisis,” he said.
“Despite such a loss, we believe that the total production will not be affected. We are expecting 12 lakh tonnes. Last year, we had procured 4.75 lakh tonnes. We will increase procurement this year for PDS,” he added.
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