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Poor Monsoon Hits Paddy Transplantation in Bihar

“If the monsoon disappoints us, preserving the paddy will become an insurmountable challenge," said Ramdeo Singh, a small-scale farmer from Jandaha block in Vaishali district.
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Patna: Poor monsoon rains have severely affected paddy cultivation in Bihar, with only 63% of the transplantation of paddy seedlings completed thus far. Farmers are currently grappling to safeguard both transplanted paddy and paddy seedlings that were prepared for transplantation. This delay in transplantation is a result of the rainfall deficit. As a consequence, paddy production in the state is expected to be adversely impacted, causing concerns among farmers and agricultural scientists.

"Throughout the ongoing kharif season, paddy transplantation has been severely affected across the state due to a significant rainfall deficit," said an agriculture department official speaking to NewsClick. The official added that, up to this point, nearly 37% of paddy transplantation remains unfinished in the state. The official further noted that paddy transplantation has been completed in less than 50% of the areas in 12 districts, including Jamui, Nawada, and flood-prone regions such as Muzaffarpur, Saharsa, Sheohar, and Sitamarhi, where the rainfall deficit is notably high.

The official said that the government has issued directives to all relevant agencies and departments to offer comprehensive assistance to farmers in light of the insufficient rainfall for paddy cultivation. A representative from the Indian Meteorological Department Centre in Patna informed NewsClick that, according to official data, the state received a rainfall of 293.7 mm from June 1 to August 4. This amount was 45% less than the normal rainfall of 538.2 mm during the same period last year.

As per the current rainfall data, it's evident that the state has experienced a significant deficit, greatly impacting the transplantation of paddy seedlings. The department had set a target of 35.97 lakh hectares for paddy cultivation this year. However, by the first week of August, only 22.72 lakh hectares had undergone transplantation of paddy seedlings, highlighting a substantial gap.

However, Bihar Agriculture Minister Sarwajeet, acknowledged that the transplantation of paddy seedlings had fallen short of the set target. Speaking to local media on Friday, Sarwajeet stated that the government is fully prepared to provide assistance to farmers. He also announced a diesel subsidy of Rs 150 crore to support the preservation of both transplanted paddy and paddy seedlings that are prepared for transplantation.

Agricultural scientist S K Singh said that the best time for paddy seedlings transplantation is from June 20 to July 15 and after that, farmers can transplant paddy by July end or maximum by the first week of August. "Paddy transplantation after the first week of August is not good for quality and production because it will see lower yields,” he explained.

Farmers find themselves in a helpless situation as they rely on monsoon rainfall for their paddy cultivation. "Our eyes are pinned on the sky for rain. We're still hopeful for substantial rains to rescue our paddy crops. If the monsoon disappoints us, preserving the paddy will become an insurmountable challenge," said Ramdeo Singh, a small-scale farmer from Jandaha block in Vaishali district.

Fear of drought-like situations is haunting farmers due to the poor monsoon so far. Singh is one of the thousands of farmers facing the brunt of extreme weather due to climate change. Since last month, lakhs of farmers across Bihar, mostly small and marginal, have been upset as clouds have flown in and out without raindrops.

Dr Abdus Sattar, a climate change expert at Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University in Pusa, Samastipur district, said that paddy cultivation occurs under rainfed conditions. Given the deficiency in rainfall during June and July, and the absence of heavy rains in early August, the transplantation of paddy has faced significant setbacks. This has compelled farmers to contemplate alternative approaches, including crop diversification and exploring other options.

Taking serious note of the deficit rainfall in the state, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar held meetings twice within the last two weeks to review the situation. He directed officials to make all necessary preparations to assist farmers dealing with deficient rainfall.

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