With the patchy progress of southwest monsoon rains —8% below ‘normal’ at the pan-India level by July 6— sowing of kharif crops was 14% below the last year’s level as of Friday. Rice and cotton have been the most affected crops.
The rain deficiency in rice-growing West Bengal, Odisha and Chhattisgarh has been quite high and has had an adverse impact on sowing area of paddy, the main kharif crop with a share of nearly 60% in the normal acreage.
Water levels at key reservoirs too are below the benchmark 10-year average touted to be normal, with the levels particularly low in north India.
However, the government reiterated on Sunday that last year’s record food grain output pf 279.51 million tonne would be surpassed this year. “The shortfall in acreage will be made up in the coming weeks. We will definitely exceed last year’s production,” told the agriculture secretary Shobhana Pattanayak. He expressed confidence that a “favourable monsoon” and higher MSPs would increase crop productivity.
West Bengal, the country’s largest producer of rice, and Chhattisgarh have received 22% and 21% below-normal rainfall, respectively, while Odisha got 30% less rains until July 6, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD) data.
Cotton sowing too has also been severely affected as the main growing region of Saurashtra in Gujarat has received large rain deficiency during the June 1-July 6 period. The Saurashtra and Kutch regions have got only 30.2 mm rainfall against normal rainfall of 124.6 mm. The cotton acreage in Gujarat dropped to 0.49 million hectare as of July 6 from 1.27 million hectare in the year-ago period. The country’s total cotton acreage too slipped nearly 24% to 5.46 million hectare.
The overall deficiency in monsoon rainfall in east and north-east region of India is 21% and in central India, it is 9%. After getting stalled for more than 15 days last month, the south west monsoon covered the entire country 17 days earlier than its normal schedule. Monsoon reaches Sriganganagar in Rajasthan, which is considered to be its last outpost in India, normally on July 15.
Till Friday, area sown of all kharif crops was lagging behind by 14.17% at 333.76 lakh hectare against 388.89 lakh hectare a year ago, as per the agriculture ministry’s data. Rice acreage was down 15% at 67.25 lakh hectare, while that of pulses was down 20% at 33.60 lakh hectare. Even area under coarse cereals was down 13.45% at 57.35 lakh hectare and acreage of oilseeds was lower by 13.42% at 63.59 lakh hectare. Among cash crops, area sown to cotton was down 24% at 54.60 lakh hectare till last week of the 2018-19 kharif season when compared with 71.82 lakh hectare in a year ago.
“July is very crucial for rice crop since maximum monsoon rainfall happens this month and if the deficiency is substantial, it will lower the production,” said BV Krishna Rao, president of Rice Exporters Association, an industry body of non-basmati rice traders. India had produced record foood grains backed by an all-time-high rice output of 111.52 million tonne in 2017-18 crop year (July-June). The government is expecting to bolster the food grain output on the back of a normal monsoon as predicted by the IMD.
“As the (higher) MSPs of paddy and other Kharif crops were announced only last week, these will take time to be reflected on sowing.. but farmers will definitely increase the area,” a government official told. He, however, admitted the lull period in the monsoon progress was too long this year and that has dragged down the sowing more than what was anticipated.
Meanwhile, the cumulative rainfall till July 6 across the country has been 92% of the long period average (LPA) or at ‘below normal’ level. Both the northwest India and south peninsula have received more-than-normal rainfall at 108% and 105% of LPA, respectively. In case of central India, the rainfall has been 91% of LPA. Rainfall in a range of 96-104% of LPA is treated as ‘normal’. LPA rainfall is pegged at 89 cm, on the basis of average between 1951-2000. The IMD has predicted 97% rainfall of LPA during the June-September monsoon season this year.
The all India reservoir level is 20% of the capacity as of July 5, which is same as in the year-ago period. However, the reservoir level in the northern region is at 17% of the capacity, down from 30% in the corresponding period last year, according to water resources ministry data released last Friday.
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