Unseasonal rains and hailstorms the past few weeks have damaged the winter-sown crops of millions of Indian farmers.
Hundreds of Indian farmers have committed suicide this month over debt worries, local media reports and farmers’ advocacy groups say.
Cloudbursts damaged soybean and sorghum crops that were ready to be harvested, forcing farmers into debts that they could not pay due to the latest crop damage.
The western Indian state of Maharashtra is the worst-hit while central and northern Indian states like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh have also been affected.
Unofficial reports put farmer deaths in the state of Uttar Pradesh in the month of March at 100, while the government confirmed 35 farmer deaths. Meanwhile, the Marathwada region in the state of Maharashtra has put the suicide toll of debt-ridden farmers at 226 in the past three months.
Millions of small farmers are struggling to survive as erratic weather hits their only source of income. They are seeking government help to stay afloat until the next harvest, but bureaucrats are moving slowly to record crop losses.
Indian daily Times of India reported on Tuesday most farmer deaths don’t figure in the official list.
Grape and mango farmers were the worst hit by the storms, along with wheat, rapeseed, chickpea and red gram.
Meanwhile, India’s Agriculture Minister on Tuesday said wheat output prospects in 2015 has been badly hit by the unseasonal rains during the harvest season.
“There’s some initial reports that suggest wheat output could drop by 4-5 percent due to unseasonal rains,” Radha Mohan Singh told a conference of state representatives in New Delhi.
Agriculture employs more than half of India’s 1.25 billion people.