MUMBAI Hail and heavy rain have damaged winter-sown crops such as wheat, rapeseed and chickpea in India's main producing areas and delayed harvesting by nearly two weeks, government and industry officials said on Monday.
The untimely rain and hail over the past week could reduce the yield of the crops as they ripen and force the government to raise imports of edible oils, pulses and wheat.
The rainfall could also trim the earning of millions of farmers already hit the previous two years by the first back-to-back drought in nearly three decades.
"In two weeks I could have harvested wheat, but last week's downpour has flattened my crop," says Namdev Patil, a farmer from Maharashtra.
Further delays could also be on the way as the weather department has forecast more rainfall in northern India over the next 24 hours.
"We are assessing crop damage due to last few days' rainfall and hailstorms in some places," said a senior official at Maharashtra state's agriculture department.
The wheat crop was hit in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
Chickpea, the main pulse crop, was damaged in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Rapeseed was hurt in top-producing Rajasthan state.
"If rapeseed and chickpea production goes down, then we don't have a choice but to increase imports," said Chowda Reddy, assistant vice-president at Inditrade Derivatives and Commodities.
India is the world's largest importer of edible oils and pulses.
(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Tom Hogue)
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