India - Unseasonal rains, hailstorms damage over 18,000 hectares of agricultural land in Maharashtra

17.03.2023 643 views

After a devastating crop loss in early March this year, Maharashtra farmers received another blow as heavy rains and hailstorms on March 16-17, 2023, flattened their ready-to-harvest crops.  

Thousands of farmers have been affected by the unseasonal rains and hailstorms that led to complete harvest losses in Marathwada and the north Maharashtra regions, according to farmers.

At least four villages in the Nanded district were affected after hailstorms destroyed wheat, vegetables, gram and other crops.

Bharad, Neuga and Mutkhed are other regions affected by the hailstorms, said Sainath Shirmevar, a farmer from Dongargaon village.

“The extreme weather condition, affecting thousands, was experienced mainly in these villages. Bharad alone has a population of 8,000 while Dongargaon has 2,000 and Mutkhed being a taluka has over 10,000,” he told Down To Earth.

Shirmevar said the incident started at around 4 am and continued for a couple of hours, leaving a person dead. Hailstorms of at least 2.5 centimetres and strong winds have flattened the standing crops.

Aurangabad division received rainfall of 96.5 millimetres across all eight districts, according to official data from the revenue department.

Mauli Deshmukh, a marginal farmer from Jalna, said rains were reported in Jalna, Hingoli, Aurangabad and Beed districts.

Deshmukh said:

I have suffered damage of about Rs 20,000 on my three-acre farmland. I was planning to pay semester fees for my son’s education by selling the wheat harvest. But I found it flattened this morning, crushing my hopes for a good income.

Deshmukh said he would have to seek more loans, above the current debt of Rs 1.20 lakh, to manage the situation.

Besides Marathwada, northern Maharashtra, comprising Nashik, Jalgaon, Nandurbar and Dhule, also received heavy rains during the wee hours of March 16.

An area of over 1,500 hectares (ha) — including 860 ha in Dhule, 565 ha in Jalgaon, 119 ha in Nashik and the remaining in Nandurbar and neighbouring areas — have suffered losses, according to the official estimates from the agriculture department.

The farmers have reported losses of wheat, gram, vegetables, banana and grapes. These losses cascade to over 17,000 ha of harvest destroyed due to unseasonal rains between March 4 and March 8. 

The rains, thunderstorms and hailstorms will likely continue until the weekend, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

IMD’s daily report stated that widespread and moderate rainfall, accompanied by thunderstorms, lightning and gusty winds, will likely affect Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra until March 19.

“Isolated hailstorms are likely over Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Vidarbha region of Maharashtra,” it read.

Similar hailstorms are likely to occur in Telangana, while rains with thunderstorms are predicted in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka. 

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