An erratic monsoon coupled with not so accurate Met Department predictions has spurred the Maharashtra Government to accelerate the proposed installation of over 2,000 private Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) in the state.
The Rs 100-crore project, to be executed in the private-public partnership (PPP) model, will get underway from October next. It will offer weather and crop advisories to farmers in an effort to minimise their losses on account of uncertain climatic conditions.
Maharashtra Agriculture Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil confirmed the AWS modalities as worked out by the city-based State Agriculture Directorate.
Vikhe Patil, who was here to review a contingency plan for kharif crops, said a private weather forecaster agency - Skymet - had been engaged as a consultant to give effect to the project for which tenders would be floated soon.
Noting that IMD (India Meteorological Department) weather predictions, on which the Agriculture Department heavily depends, had at times not been so accurate, he said the alternative system of weather forecasting for farmers, with specific inputs, was expected to stand them in good stead in terms of decision-making for farming operations.
The Agriculture Directorate officials said in view of a weak monsoon in the state in June, the Agriculture Universities had worked out advisories on alternative crop pattern to suit rain-starved regions.
According to the latest survey, only eight per cent of sowing operations for the kharif crop this season had been completed, which was much less than 13 per cent registered in the corresponding period last year.
While the sowing activity is mainly confined to Konkan and Vidarbha regions, which had received relatively more rainfall since the onset of the monsoons, the situation in Western Maharashtra, Marathwada and Khandesh, where rain had been inadequate, was worrying the farmers.
Paucity of water to be made available from dams due to insufficient rains in the catchment areas so far has again brought focus on increasing micro-irrigation facilities in the state to support various crop patterns, official sources in the Directorate of Agriculture said.
A provision of Rs 700 crore was being made for the purpose this year, they said.
The directorate has reassured farmers that adequate supply of all types of seeds would be ensured through state and private agencies in the event of second sowing, if required.