August 21, 2007 / 11:16 AM / 12 years ago

Floods damage India's corn crop, rice also hit

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Massive monsoon floods in eastern India damaged vast areas of corn and affected the rice crop, government officials and farm experts said on Tuesday, adding that losses are being assessed.

A train travels along the flooded Darbhanga-Sitamadhi railway line in Bihar in this August 2, 2007 file photo. Massive monsoon floods in eastern India damaged vast areas of corn and affected the rice crop, government officials and farm experts said on Tuesday, adding that losses are being assessed. REUTERS/Krishna Murari Kishan

About 1,000 people have died from flooding across India during the last five weeks and thousands are marooned in the worst-affected states of Bihar, Orissa, Assam and Uttar Pradesh.

“We have reports that an area totalling 5.5 million hectares has been affected by floods, largely in eastern parts of the country,” Agriculture Commissioner N.B. Singh told Reuters. “But we are yet to know the exact extent of damage to crops.”

Initial reports received by the farm ministry showed corn production would be affected by the floods, he said.

The eastern region accounts for about 30 percent of India’s annual corn output of 13-14 million tonnes.

“We are not worried about rice as it is a water intensive crop and could also be sown a little later when flood water recedes,” Singh said.

India produces around 90 million tonnes of rice annually, including 4 million tonnes of Basmati. The eastern region contributes one-third of the total output, trade officials said.

“Summer-sown rice may be slightly affected but the loss is likely to be compensated in the winter season,” Anil Adlakha, executive director of the All India Rice Exporters Association, said.

India has two seasons for most crops, with summer plantings beginning ahead of the monsoon in June and harvested from September.

Last week, the farm ministry said rice had been planted on 27.84 million hectares up until Aug. 17, compared with 28.13 million hectares at the same time last year.

Domestic prices of corn are not likely to jump because of the damage to the crop, said Amol Sheth, president of the All India Starch Manufacturers’ Association.

“Summer-sown corn in the eastern states is typically consumed within the region and corn grown in the winter is supplied to other parts of the country,” he said.

The government should step up the use of remote sensing technology to forecast weather conditions and to quickly assess damage, P. Chengal Reddy, secretary general of the Consortium of Indian Farmers Association, said.

India’s four-month monsoon season ends in September. The flood-affected states are not a major producer of oilseeds.

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