LAHORE, March 2: The four spells of rain during February have affected three crops – potato, maize and mustard – to varying degrees.

According to farmers, the first crop that suffered because of rain was potato harvest. Its harvesting normally starts by mid-February and is completed by mid-March. But for harvesting, the moisture level in the ridges has to be less than 60 per cent but it never happened during those four weeks.

“The continued rain spells, one during each week, kept the fields soaked and did not allow crop harvesting,” says Rao Azhar, a potato grower from Okara district. Now the apprehension is that the entire crop will hit the market at one time, create a glut and lead to price crash. The Punjab farmers sow two varieties of potato – one takes 90 days to mature and other’s life cycle is 110 days. “Both varieties will now land in the market simultaneously to create a glut and price crash,” he feared.

Accoring to Rao Azhar, there is corresponding delay in maize sowing as well. Farmers normally clear their fields of potato and sow spring corn. The most propitious time for it is February-end, which has already lapsed. This delay will result in yield loss up to 10 per cent, if not more. But if March turns out to be hotter than usual, the woes of spring corn farmers will deepen further. “The farmers thus are hit on both counts: price loss in potato and production loss in maize,” he concluded.

Abad Khan, a mustard farmer from Sahiwal area, said the loss was not only restricted to potato and maize, but mustard crop was also facing pressure because of incessant rains during last month. He said the crop needed little water to mature. What it got was regular watering during the month, especially with two spells in the last week of February. It was not only the quantity of water but the timing was also damaging. The crop was at the flowering stage in the last week when it rained continuously. He said some plants were already turning pale and weaker.

“The crop is sown over 350,000 acres in the province and farmers, especially those using hybrid seeds, invest heavily on it. Though it is too early to assess the loss, farmers will know it in the next two weeks when pods formation is complete.” — Staff Reporter

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