April is usually a time to rejoice for millions of farmers across northern India. The winter wheat crop is ready to be harvested, and there is money to clear past debts and plan future planting.
This year however, heavy rain out of season has wreaked havoc on standing crops in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. These states are collectively the “bread basket” of the country, producing most of India’s wheat.
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The rain, and the strong wind that accompanied it, were so unexpected that farmland was often flooded within hours. Stalks of wheat that were nearly ready for harvest were either submerged under water or flattened by the wind.
“Normally this time of the year, we are a happy lot. Our granary is full and we clear all our dues by selling our produce,” said Vinod Kumar, an Uttar Pradesh farmer, told the Associated Press. “This year we lost everything. We are left with nothing, neither food for us, nor fodder for animals.”
As if to confirm the unusual start to the year, April thunderstorms have dumped sudden downpours on the east of the Deccan Plateau, from Telangana to Bihar. An example can be seen in Hyderabad where in three days, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of this week, 87mm of rain fell out of a thundery sky. In this highly seasonal country, the expected rainfall for Hyderabad in April is about 20mm.
In India, a largely agrarian country, heavy rain is expected during the southwest monsoon, starting in June. The planting and harvesting seasons follows this climatic pattern.
In any year when the seasons behave unusually, such as this year, the effects can soon be disastrous on crops and farmers. But for the time being, the weather has settled down to the April norm with significant rain confined to the south of India and the Himalayan foothills.