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Farmers across Andhra Pradesh are looking towards the sky, desperately hoping that it will open up and shower its grace on their parched agricultural fields. A prolonged dry spell after the initial rains this season has severely affected agricultural activity, so much so that sowing was taken up in only 43 per cent of the total area in the first two months of the ongoing Kharif season. While the state overall received 7.2 per cent less rainfall than normal since June 1, the four Rayalaseema districts have recorded deficient rainfall ranging from -21. 7 per cent to -31.8 per cent. Though the situation is "not yet alarming", according to the agriculture department officials, they nevertheless have started drawing a contingency plan to face any eventuality. A forecast by the ISRO, that some parts of the state could receive rainfall before August 15, has raised hopes and officials expect sowing to pick up. Not all 13 districts will see rainfall, though, as only Anantapuramu, Chittoor, Visakhapatnam, Guntur and Krishna districts are expected to experience showers. "There is a forecast that there will be 20-30 mm rainfall in the next fortnight. With this, there is a good hope of covering some more area," coordinator of the state's Primary Sector Mission N D R K Sarma said. A contingency plan is also being prepared to raise alternative crops in at least 2.5 lakh ha in case of no further rainfall, he added. While various crops were grown in 37.70 lakh hectares during kharif 2016, the state set a target of 42.06 lakh hectares for this season. But, with the southwest monsoon playing truant, sowing has been completed in only 21.31 lakh hectares (ha) till August 2, which is 43 per cent of the season normal, according to information on the Chief Minister's Office Realtime Executive Dashboard. Foodgrains, including paddy and pulses, were raised in only 6.09 lakh ha as against the target of 16.26 lakh ha.
Oilseeds, including groundnut, predominant in Anantapuramu district, cropping was taken up in only 3.82 lakh ha against the target of 9.45 lakh ha. "There is no flow of water either in the Krishna or Pennar rivers and rain has been scanty. Hence, the current situation. We will now distribute seed for alternative crops at subsidised prices, where normal cropping could not be taken up," Agriculture Minister Somireddy Chandramohan Reddy told PTI. Though the "War on Drought" experiment, using rain guns, failed to yield any result last year, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has directed officials to use rain guns again this year to wet the crops and prevent withering.
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