Kohima, June 17: Nagaland witnessed a drought-like situation due to delayed monsoon affecting nearly 70% of the population in rural areas dependent on agriculture and allied activities, said the government.

State agriculture minister G Kaito Aye said the state was facing a “peculiar” year as farmers could be facing a drought if the situation created by climate change and delayed monsoon persisted. Approximately 915 villages are affected by deficient rains and around 68,662 hectares of jhum fields in the identified villages along with 525 hectares of horticultural crops were affected as per official data.

“Terraced rice cultivation (upland) and wet terraced rice cultivation have also been affected due to deficient monsoon rains in all the districts causing delay in land preparation and sowing. If the same trend continues till July, then the farmers may fail to undertake cultivation activities,” agriculture production commissioner Y Kikheto Sema said.

The commissioner highlighted that rice production in the state, which was 551,000 metric tonnes for the year 2020-21 is now anticipated to reduce by 70% to 166,000 metric tonnes in the current year if the present dry spell continues.

He said a shortage of rainfall had also affected commercial crops like large cardamom, fruits and vegetables, and livestock such as fisheries, piggery, etc.

The situation was aggravated by fall armyworm (FAW) in March last, affecting 3048.45 hectares of maize crop covering 334 villages.

“Despite intervention by the departments, the FAW infestation could not be completely neutralized,” he added. The administration distributed seeds and planting materials for re-sowing in the affected jhum fields, however, it failed to achieve the desired result due to deficient rain.

Chief minister Neiphiu Rio convened a meeting of agriculture and horticulture departments to take stock of the situation on June 15. As per officials, the state would require assistance from the Centre to mitigate the effects of deficient rains in the state.

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Meanwhile, the government is trying to ensure that crop loss is minimized and is pushing for climate-resilient agriculture. They will be distributing seeds such as potatoes, oilseeds, vegetables for the early rabi season from September to compensate the farmers for the anticipated loss. A board headed by the Agriculture Production Commissioner (APC) has been formed to monitor and review the ground situation as per the reports received from the field.