A surge in the sowing of soybeans in parts of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra has lifted overall oilseed acreage to above the normal area (average of the past five to 10 years, depending on crop) for the first time during the current kharif season, providing a much-needed cheer amid overall gloom.
According to the latest data from the agriculture ministry, oilseed sowing during the week ended Friday rose to 13.83 million hectares (m ha), three per cent more than normal at this time of the year. The push has also helped sowing reach close to last year’s level.
“The rise in the past week will help compensate the loss of acreage in groundnut because of low rain in Gujarat,” Agriculture Secretary Ashish Bahuguna had told reporters on Friday, after reviewing the overall crop sowing scenario.
In Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, soybean was sown on 1.4-1.5 m ha during the week because of good rains. Soybean and groundnuts are the biggest oilseed crop during the kharif.
However, the dismal situation in coarse cereals and pulses has worsened, as the gap between normal area and actual sowing has widened. In the former, the gap widened by 1.2 m ha during the week. In pulses, the difference was 0.55 m ha. “This is a worrying sign, as it shows that farmers are in fact not planting coarse cereals and grains in monsoon-deficient areas,” a senior agricultural economist said.
The southwest monsoon showed some signs of revival during the week, but this was far less than required. “I feel that overall monsoon deficiency would continue to remain at 22-20 per cent till the end of July and the monthly shortfall would be around 16 per cent,” Bahuguna said.
“I’am not unduly worried about the fall in coarse cereals, as it can be supplemented by grains, but pulses definitely is the main area of concern,” said Ashok Gulati, chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP).
Rating agency CRISIL warned that a continuation of thi situation in the remaining weeks of this monsoon season would lead to a drought, maybe severe, in 2012. It termed the situation akin to 2009, when India faced the worst drought in 30 years.
Among other crops, the area under paddy was estimated at 19.1 m ha, with 700,000 hectares unsown in West Bengal. Cotton had been sown on 9.72 m ha till Friday, around 320,000 ha more than the normal area. Jute plating was on 7,000 hectares more than the normal area.