Muhammad Yaseen, a farmer with a small land holding of 10 acres in Kahna, a village near Lahore has no reason to celebrate the harvest in April this year. Due to little rains during the month of January, the growth of wheat crop has suffered a lot. The above normal rains during the month of March accompanied by hailstorms and winds are not auguring well for this staple crop grown over 20 million acres in Pakistan, mainly in Punjab and Sindh provinces. The wheat production is likely to come down to 23 million tones mark against the target of 26 million tones.
“The erratic rains are mainly due to El nino factor that is presently at the fag end. But it has already left negative effects on the crops,” Muhammad Riaz, Chief Meteorologist says.
It has been predicted that the uncertainties in Pakistan’s weather pattern will persist towards the early summer. Like March, April is expected to be wetter than normal. Frequent spells of rainfall and isolated hailstorms with windstorm may hamper the harvesting and threshing of wheat and sowing of cotton. May and first half of June are likely to remain drier and hotter than normal. The meteorologists say that would increase the probability of occurrence of heat waves over plains, badly affecting the agronomic patterns.
The erratic rains and extreme weather events are not a recent phenomenon. During the last summer and the ensuing months, the abnormal rainfall coupled with adulterated and spurious agro-chemicals led to poor harvest in Pakistan especially in the Punjab province. The cotton production nose-dived by 43 percent, inflecting a loss of US $ 1.5 billion to the growers of Punjab alone, besides forcing the textile sector to import lint from central Asian states like Uzbekistan.
But the more alarming thing for the farmers is that the situation is not going to improve even in the coming days. The meteorological changes coupled with the profitability considerations have changed the cropping patterns in cotton belt in Southern Punjab and Upper Sindh where the establishment of the sugar mills has turned the cultivation of silver fibre a non-profitable business. Now one finds more and more farmers shifting to sugarcane from cotton. This year, due to intense heating, monsoon onset is expected to be early during second half of June, creating fears among farmers about damages to the crop due to untimely rains. Climate Change experts believe that the people of Pakistan can keep the wolf of drought and food insecurity away by putting strict control on urbanization and deforestation to help keep the vegetative cover at required level. Otherwise, the erratic weather conditions may continue in future, minimizing the water and other resources. It is high time to have more and more reservoirs in the country to offset the possibility of water scarcity due to undesired weather phenomena like El Nino and La Nina factors.