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Sunday, August 5, 2012

State may lose battle to keep foodgrain prices in check

Mumbai: The fight to keep food prices affordable is losing steam amid the drought looming large over the state. 

    Soaring temperatures and poor rainfall have devastated harvests across the state's farmlands. Over 53% of the state is now affected by deficient rainfall, according to official data. Out of 355 talukas in Maharashtra, about 191 talukas have received less than 75% of the normal rainfall. This has severely crippled kharif harvest even as the end of the sowing season draws near. 
    The production of cereals and pulses is the worst hit among all kharif crops, raising concerns of further increase in food prices. According to information released by the Centre's empowered group of ministers, only 56% of the normal area under cereal cultivation has so far been sown. 
    The average sown area during monsoon between 2003 and 2008was49.82lakhhectare(cereals) and 24.37 lakh hectare (pulses). Among cereals, the sown area under bajra (43% of normal), paddy (57%), and ragi or finger millet (58%) continues to arouse concern. The state government hopes a good spell of rain in the final leg of monsoon will help reduce the shortfall of these crops. Among pulses, while 94% area has been sown with tur, sown area under green gram (moong) and split black gram (udid) and 
other coarse cereals remains at 63%, 61% and 30% of the normal average. 
    Indicating that farmers are opting for cash crops, which require more water, the area sown under sugarcane and cotton is 134% of the normal average. Similarly, area under oilseed cultivation is 115% of the aver
age. To reduce the shortfall of kharif crops, the state has decided to adopt measures including optimal utilization of rainfall and enhancing fodder production and sought financial assistance from the Centre for these projects. Plans are afoot to provide alternative employment under thejob generation scheme by expanding the outreach of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Assurance scheme. Poor rainfall has alsokickedin a severedrinking water shortfall, especially in Marathwada, Nashik and Pune, where the live water storage percentage in reservoirs (on August 1) was at 9%, 19% and 33% .


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