With hopes of a strong revival in the southwest monsoon in the last two months of the June-September season waning, the major concern has shifted to salvaging the standing kharif crop, sowing of which has entered the last leg.
If sowing does not pick up in the next 10-15 days, it could have a major impact on the total kharif production. Officials said though the overall area under major kharif crops — barring sugarcane, cotton and jute — was less than normal (average of past five years) as of the week ended Friday, there had been some improvement on a week-on-week basis.
“This means there are some areas where planting is still going on, despite half the monsoon season being already over,” a senior official said.
He hoped sowing of coarse cereals and pulses would pick up in the coming weeks, as farmers are expected to start shifting their land to short-duration crops from water-intensive ones like sugarcane and oilseeds.
Data from the ministry of agriculture show that though compared to the normal area, the acreage of rice, coarse cereals, pulses and oilseeds is less, there has been improvement in the week ended Friday as compared to the previous one.
In rice, sowing has risen by 4.26 million hectares over the week. In coarse cereals, it has risen by 684,000 ha, in pulses by 980,000 ha and in cotton by 300,000 ha.
“The big challenge will be reaching the normal area by the end of the sowing season, which is on the verge of getting over. Else, we could be staring at a big shortfall in overall farm production in 2012-2013,” an expert said.
Water levels in the 84 major reservoirs across the country also improved last week. They’re now around 66 per cent of last year’s storage and 81 per cent of the past 10-years’ average.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has, for the first time, officially said 30-35 per cent of the country is facing a drought-like situation.
IMD declares the country drought-hit when rainfall deficiency after the culmination of the four-month southwest monsoon season is 10 per cent and 20-40 per cent of the total geographical area of India faces drought-like conditions.
The met office also said rains in August and September would be around 91 per cent of the Long Period Average (LPA), which is below normal (between 90 and 95 per cent of LPA).
The LPA is the average rainfall over the whole country in the four-month monsoon season over a period of 50 years.
Kharif sowing (in million hectares)
|Crop||Till July 27,
|Till Aug 3,
|% change compared
with last week
|*Average of last five years Source: Department of agriculture|
Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, who toured the drought-affected areas of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Gujarat with Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, said,"It is very clear that this is a very serious drought.
Drought in Maharashtra is the worst in the last 20 years, the Gujarat drought the worst in 25 years and in Karnataka, the worst in 40 years."