Hit by the market slowdown because of the COVID-19 outbreak, farmers in Maharashtra have received another blow with hailstorms and rain affecting grape, pomegranate, banana, orange and mosambi orchards. Tracts of wheat and vegetables were also destroyed in parts of the State due to the heavy downpour in the last two days.
All eight districts in the Marathwada region were hit by hailstorms and heavy rainfall, affecting rabi cultivation. Along with wheat and vegetables, a huge amount of bajara and mango was destroyed in the Aurangabad region. In Jalna, an estimated 400 hectares of cultivation has been affected by the rains. Grape cultivation in the region stands affected. Crops in Latur, Beed, Osmanbad, and Nanded are also affected.
Districts in western and north Maharashtra reported hailstorms and rains. Farmers fear that the quality of grapes might be affected because of rains. In Jalgaon, lemon plantations were damaged by the rains.
Already farmers are affected because APMCs in the State are barely functioning because of the coronavirus fear. Farmers coming with APMCs with produce have to return with the produce. Vegetable and tomato farmers in the State have destroyed their produce in the last few days.
Last October, unseasonal rains had damaged kharif crops on over 70 lakh hectares and farmers were hoping to recover losses by harvesting rabi crops. However, a sudden change in atmospheric conditions and untimely downpours have posed a major challenge to farmers.
Meanwhile, thousands of farmers and activists across the State are observing a day-long fast on Tuesday to commemorate the suicide of Sahebrao Karpe, the first farmer to end his life in the State. Karpe, a farmer from the drought-prone Yavatmal district of Maharashtra, committed suicide along with his wife and four children on March 19, 1986. A note he left behind said: “It is impossible to survive as a farmer.” Karpe’s suicide was the first documented farmer suicide in the State.
Over the last four years, Maharashtra’s farmers have been observing a day-long fast to highlight their plight and draw the government's attention to their problems.