Pest menace spreads to 22 districts in Assam, govt mulling compensation

Caterpillar infestation of standing paddy crops is being reported from 12 more districts in Assam, bringing the number of affected districts to 22. The pest attack this year is feared to be worse than a similar attack witnessed in 1967.

In the 22 districts, paddy crops over 30,204 hectares of farmland have been affected in the pest attack. The affected districts are Golaghat, Jorhat, Sivasagar, Charaideo, Majuli, Dibrugarh, Darrang, Nalbari, Barpeta, Dhubri, Mankachar, Goalpara, Nagaon, Kokrajhar, Morigaon, Kamrup, Kamrup (Metro), Kamrup (East), Biswanath, Sonitpur, North Lakhimpur and Dhemaji. Earlier, severe pest attack had been reported in 10 districts of the state.

Addressing a press conference on the issue on Thursday, Assam agriculture minister Atul Bora said, “Out of total cultivable area of 18.74 lakh hectares, Sali paddy crops in 30,204 hectares, which is 1.6 per cent of the total area where Sali crops are being cultivated, have been affected in the recent pest attack,” adding, “More than 1 lakh farmers have been affected by the problem.”

Bora said sufficient pesticides and sprays are being supplied to farmers in the affected districts to deal with the pest menace. Deputy Commissioners have been asked to procure more pesticides, fertilizers and other necessary things, if needed, for supplying the same to farmers.

When asked whether any compensation would be given to farmers to cover their crop loss, the agriculture minister said, “We are thinking about it and all help will be provided to them.”

On the allegation about supply of expired fertilizers to farmers in the state, Bora said, “The government has detected the negligence and action has already been taken against a few agriculture officials in Golaghat district.”

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