Drought hits Bihar maize farmers

Due to drought this year, the country might not be able to tap maize from the state’s three districts — Begusarai, Khagaria, and five blocks of northern Bhagalpur — whose maize yields are considered among the bests in the country.

While maize has 108 industrial uses, including in the manufacture of gun powder and cosmetics, over and above their use in fast food in metros and other towns, the merchants banking on lifting maize from the three districts have been left wringing their empty hands.

Incidentally, such merchants, for the last three seasons, have been setting up their maize-lifting centres at Maheshkhoot on National Highway-31 in Khagaria district, that is the central point in the zone. Even deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi used to mention this development with pride two years ago. Accordingly, farmers not only in the three districts, but also in neighbouring Purnia and Katihar, had been reaping huge chunk of cash from their maize yield.

Said Jayant Singh from Katihar district, “Last year, I had sold maize worth Rs 3 lakh. As a matter of fact, any farmer who cultivated maize had good return on the crop. But, this year, we are the losers.”

The impact of the drought on the mood and morale of the maize-growing farmers could be easily imagined. In fact, the leader of the Central team assessing the impact of drought in the state, Pankaj Kumar, who is joint secretary in the Union agriculture ministry, noted in his meeting with CM Nitish Kumar on Friday that maize plants had already wilted or dried in the drought-hit districts.

Incidentally, based on rainfall deficit and poor paddy coverage till July 31, the government declared 28 of the state’s 38 districts as drought hit. Both Begusarai and Bhagalpur figured among them. Now, on Monday, disaster management department (DMD) principal secretaryVyas Ji would assess the drought situation in the remaining 10 districts, which include Khagaria, Purnia and Katihar, through videoconferencing with the DMs concerned. Indication on the basis of the field reports was that the situation in the 10 districts was also grim. In effect, these districts would also be declared as drought-hit.

Its implication is that the damage to the maize crop, like paddy and pulses, has been substantial. Pertaining to the 28 districts, the state’s agriculture department had computed that the maize coverage in 2.31 lakh hectares worth around 2.07 metric tonnes had been damaged.

With the damage registered in 10 other districts, the loss of damage would be more. In result, both farmers and industries using maize from Bihar are the sufferers, and those who have the taste for various types of maize-based soup and pop corns would have to shell out extra bit of money to satisfy their culinary fantasies.

(Patna/Abhay Singh/TNN/Aug 15, 2010)

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