Srinagar: The erratic weather conditions in the Kashmir Valley have kept the residents and farmers on edge. As the May rains continue in June, when the locals were expecting an ideal sunny afternoon, the direct impact of climate change on the Himalayan region is keeping the growers anxious.

Farmers from several districts of the Valley are worried that the heavy, and untimely, rainfall is damaging the crops, a loss that is likely to reflect soon in the market rates too, experts told The Kashmir Walla.

Zoona Begum, a 56-year-old farmer, from Srinagar’s Hazratbal, has been engaged in strawberry cultivation for the last ten years. This year, she says, the orchard has lost nearly half of the crop. 

“We worked hard in this field and took care of the plants, used fertilizers,” she says. “We also tried to cultivate strawberries in nearby fields but due to heavy rainfall we suffered huge losses.”

The Jammu and Kashmir is an agro-state, whose economy is predominantly dependent on agriculture, with nearly 70 percent of the population engaged in the allied sectors, as per the government’s estimate.

However, with the worsening climatic conditions in the ecologically fragile zone of J-K, the temperatures continue to wary often forcing farmers to think of alternatives.

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Man showcasing strawberries that fell following a hailstorm in Gusoo village. Photograph by Umer Asif for The Kashmir Walla.

Mohammad Sultan Mir, a 70-year-old paddy farmer from central Kashmir’s Budgam district, has used his land to cultivate rice in Kashmir for decades. “When we sow the seeds, there is a specific time when it needs the water but unfortunately we faced a lack of water on time,” he told The Kashmir Walla. “Later, we received heavy rainfall that devastated my paddy nursery.”

Similarly, the apple growers from several districts of the Valley said that the recent hailstorms, snowfall, and other climatic events have caused extensive damage to their orchards and fields.

Maqsood Kambay, a 55-year-old apple farmer from north Kashmir’s Sopore, said that hailstorms damaged his orchard beyond his belief. “The fruit-bearing capacity of the trees has been reduced and this happens every year now,” he says. “But the sudden hailstorm shattered all our hopes.”

Apple growers like Kambay have urged the government for compensation to meet the losses that they suffered over the last few years. 

Speaking with The Kashmir Walla, Mukhtar Ahmad, the deputy director of the Department of Metrology, Kashmir, said that the region experienced showers in both the higher and lower ranges accompanied by strong gusty winds and thunderstorms.

Ahmad urged farmers to stop all agriculture activities until June’s first Friday evening. After 3 June, a change in weather is expected.

According to data from the Meteorological Department, J-K, the valley saw the recent winter with 34 percent less precipitation overall, including snowfall and rainfall. Between 1 December 2022 to 31 January 2023, the valley saw precipitation at a rate of 188.9 millimeters (mm), compared to a normal of 248.9 mm.

Then Kashmir received 40.7 mm and 78.9 mm of precipitation in February and March of this year, respectively, compared to normal values of 130.4 mm and 152.9 mm. This represents a decrease in precipitation of, respectively, 69% and 48% over these two months.

As per the data shared by an independent weather forecaster, J-K recorded an excess rainfall of 24 percent in May; against the normal precipitation of 77.5 percent, the region recorded 96.3 mm of rainfall last month.

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Farmers working in the paddy fields on the outskirts of Srinagar. Photograph by Umer Asif for The Kashmir Walla.

Dr. Sameera Qayoom, Professor and Head of Agrometeorology, at Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agriculture Sciences and Technology (SKAUST), Kashmir, told The Kashmir Walla that the crops have been widely affected by the unexpectedly high rainfall.

While the Kharif crops witnessed massive damage, the paddy nurseries have vanished in some areas.

Reiterating the directions from the SKUAST, Dr. Qayoom said that “these farmers need to follow the instructions on time to avoid such losses. Advisories from the  experts are important regarding the production.”

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