Nearly 30 per cent excess rainfall in the past 10 days has, by and large, benefited the kharif crops, though it also caused many rivers to swell and inundate surrounding areas, where crops may get damaged. Significantly, the rain-starved eastern India had copious rainfall, about 23 per cent above normal, during this period. This has created conditions suitable for either late planting of paddy or sowing of alternative crops in the areas that have remained unsown.
The reassuring factor is that the wet spell in the eastern region is enduring, which may help redeem part of drought loss. The overall paucity in the seasonal rainfall in the country as a whole had shrunk to just two per cent by August 28.
On the whole, the kharif sowing has been remarkably good this year. Nearly 95 million hectares, constituting over 90 per cent of the normal kharif area, has been brought under crop cover by August 26. This is nearly eight million hectares more than last year’s coverage. Almost all crops have gained in area, compared to last year, with paddy, coarse cereals and pulses accounting for two million hectares of additional acreage, each. The crop condition is generally satisfactory. Diseases and pests have remained largely below the threshold mark in most places.
Early sown cotton crop has begun arriving in Punjab mandis. The prices are ruling firm, despite an 8.5 per cent increase in cotton area and an anticipated bumper production. The price rally is expected to persist, thanks to projected higher demand for cotton in domestic and export markets in the wake of global economic recovery.
Surge in rainfall in late August has resulted in rapid rise in total water stock of 81 major reservoirs. It stood at 82.793 billion cubic metres on August 26, which is 31 per cent above the last year’s corresponding level and just two per cent below the long-period average. However, there is still some worry about water storage in 36 dams which have hydel power units attached to them. The water level in 23 of these is still below normal, the Central Water Commission data show.
On the upside, the India Meteorological Department (IMD), in its monsoon forecast update issued on August 27, has predicted 15 per cent above-normal rainfall in September. This will be a parting gift as the monsoon normally begins withdrawing from the western-most part of Rajasthan from September 1.
Reports on kharif sowing from states indicate that pulses, which saw over 30 per cent increase in prices last year, have been preferred over oilseeds by farmers in the rainfed tracts.
The area under pulses has consequently increased to nearly 11 million hectares, from last year’s 9 million hectares, while that under oilseeds has risen only marginally from 16 million hectares last season to 16.5 million hectares this year. Cotton and sugarcane acreage, too, has gone up on higher price expectations.
Among the drought-hit areas in the east, crop sowing has been more or less on target in Assam and eastern Uttar Pradesh despite poor rainfall, according to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). However, the real concern is about some parts of Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal where paddy planting has suffered because of paucity of soil moisture.
In Jharkhand, though the entire state has been declared drought-hit, over 80 per cent of the paddy area has been brought under the crop in west Singhbum and Saraikela areas. Elsewhere, farmers have been advised to take advantage of the recent rains to sow alternative crops like urad, moong, tur and nigerseed (kala til).
|AREA SOWN TILL AUGUST 26 (In million hectares)|
|CROPS||THIS YEAR||LAST YEAR||% DIFFERENCE|
|AREA WEIGHTED RAINFALL IN SIX DEFICIENT|
|MET SUBDIVISIONS TILL AUGUST 28 (In millimetres)|
|Met subdivision||% deficiency|
|Gangetic West Bengal||-33|
|East Uttar Pradesh||-28|
|Assam & Meghalaya||-27|
A similar strategy has been suggested for West Bengal’s drought-hit 11 districts, most of which have received good showers in the past week. The ICAR has recommended sowing of pulses, such as urad and tur, in the uplands and the transplanting of even older paddy seedling (up to 45 days old) in the low lands, where water may no longer be a problem.
For Bihar, the Council has advised planting of crops like jowar, maize and lobia (cowpea) for fodder purpose. Toria oilseed can also be planted by the end of this month.
For flooded areas, the advisories suggest application of 30 kg nitrogen per hectare after the water drains out to help crops to revive.