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India - Excessive rains raising fears of floods and pest attack, likely to affect crop output

Persistent bursts of torrential rain, particularly in central and western India, is threatening crop output that was so far expected to rise to a new record and make agriculture the best performer in the Covid-hit economy.

The southwest monsoon has turned vigorous in August after a deficient July, raising fears of floods and triggering pest attacks on crops. Rainfall this month has been 23% above normal in the country, with many parts of central and western India, including Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, receiving much more than average rain.

The current spell of heavy rain has damaged urad and soyabean in central and western India. Excess rainfall may persist as the rain-boosting La Nina forecast is expected in the weeks ahead.

“All talk of a massive crop of soybean and groundnut now seems to be getting moderated with the rains showing no signs of relenting,” said Atul Chaturvedi, president of trade body Solvent Extractors’ Association, which expects 10%-12% crop loss.

Ratings agency Crisil NSE 0.52 % says the possibility of excess rainfall due La Nina is a risk factor for the forecast of summer-sown crop output rising 5%-6% to a new record.

“But how the excess rainfall (if any) progresses would need to be monitored. An impact of a La Niña on the kharif productivity and output will be dependent on various factors, such as time of occurrence, crop growth stage, spatial and temporal distribution of rainfall across states,” said Crisil in an email response to ET.

Trade bodies said pulses and oilseed crops are at the risk due to present spell of heavy rainfall.

“Excess rainfall in many of districts of Madhya Pradesh and some parts of Karnataka has led to stagnation of water in the fields of moong and urad causing damage to the crop. Along with excess rains, the refusal of the central government to extend the last date for import of urad beyond August 31 has led to increase in price of urad by 8-10% and of moong by 5- 6%,” said Suresh Aggarwal, president, All India Dal Millers Association.

Soyabean Processors Association of India said pest and disease had affected the crop. “In Madhya Pradesh, the overall loss of production may be 10% to 12%.

However, the weather in coming weeks will have a great bearing on final yields. The damage is mostly caused by sudden, very heavy rains and variation in temperature, creating a congenial environment for large scale attack of dormant Rhizoctonia, Aerial Blight and anthracnose (pod blight) which infected the soybean plants,” said DN Pathak, executive director, SOPA in a statement.

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