August 6, 2007 / 1:34 PM / 12 years ago

Fierce floods damage food crops in India's east

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India’s agriculture ministry said on Monday it was still assessing the impact on crops of massive monsoon floods in the country’s east, but state officials said vast areas of rice and corn had been damaged.

Houses in the area of the flooded Bagmati River are seen in the village of Darbhanga, in Bihar, August 2, 2007. India's agriculture ministry said on Monday it was still assessing the impact on crops of massive monsoon floods in the country's east, but state officials said vast areas of rice and corn had been damaged. REUTERS/Krishna Murari Kishan

In the rice-growing state of Bihar close to one million hectares of cultivable land have been submerged by some of the worst floods in living memory, said Manoj Kumar Srivastava, an official managing relief efforts.

“We are yet to get detailed reports on the impact of floods on crops,” said N.B. Singh, agriculture commissioner. “But corn output will take a hit.”

Assam, Uttar Pradesh and now Orissa have also been inundated after unusually heavy rain caused rivers to burst their banks.

Millions of people have been forced from their homes and where waters have begun to recede a thick layer of silt has been left behind, making further planting impossible for several months in some areas.

Srivastava said corn has been damaged by the two week-long floods, which have killed more than 200 people in India.

Officials in the eastern state of Assam, another top rice producer, said 350,000 hectares (864,900 acres) of land had been inundated for a week now. Orissa mainly produces rice.

The agriculture ministry said that up to Aug. 2, rice had been planted over 21.98 million ha, down from 22.30 million at the same time a year ago.

Singh said rice could withstand some flooding but maize, millets and pulses wither fast.

Major crops are planted ahead of the monsoon in June, including rice, cotton, oilseeds and sugarcane, and harvests begin in September-October.

The four-month monsoon season ends in September. The flood-affected states do not grow large amounts of oilseeds.

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