Unseasonal rains and hailstorms in various parts of the country during this month have "adversely affected" production of rabi crops. Preliminary reports said crops in about 2.7 million hectares have been damaged, the government on Friday said this in Parliament. The government has sent Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh and ministers of state Sanjeev Balyan and Mohanbhai Kundaria to Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, respectively, to assess the crop damage. The government also deputed a team of around seven officials to tour the affected areas and directed them to submit a report in the next few days. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in an interview to a private television channel said unseasonal rains might have an impact on food prices in the coming days. "The recent unseasonal rains and hailstorms in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal have adversely affected production of rabi crops, further aggravating the overall production of agricultural crops during 2014-15," Minister of State for Agriculture Mohanbhai Kundaria said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha. Wheat, mustard and grams are major rabi (winter-sown) crops. India's foodgrain production is estimated to decline by 3.2 per cent at 257.07 million tonnes in the 2014-15 crop year (July-June) as against 265.57 million tonnes in the previous year, Kundaria said. In reply to a separate query, Kundaria said unseasonal rains and hailstorm on February 28 and March 1 have affected rabi crops in several states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, etc. "According to preliminary reports, about 27 lakh hectare crop area has been affected.
The states are yet to submit their assessment of loss to standing crops to the ministry of agriculture," he said. In the rabi season of 2014-15 crop year, 535.35 lakh hectares were sown under foodgrains and 79.34 lakh hectares under oilseeds. The government provides support to states under State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) and National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF) for losses to crops due to natural calamity as per the guidelines of SDRF and NDRF.