The southwest monsoon has made a virtual U-turn since the end of July. From being low and scanty, the downpour is now reasonable in the hitherto parched lands of North, West and South India.
However, experts said, the late revival of southwest monsoon won’t help recover the losses suffered in June and July. At the most, it could help prevent standing crops from withering. But that, too, would depend on how the rains fare in September.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) had said in its last forecast that rains in September would be less than that in August.
- 16% was rain shortfall on August 17; the shortage was 30% in end of June
- 51% of full reservoir level was last week’s water levels; it was 16% in end-June
- 17% was paddy acreage increase between August 8 and August 16
- Continuation of good spell critical for final yields
- Experts says August rains would not compensate for the losses suffered in June and July
The revival, though, has boosted planting of kharif crops and narrowed down the overall rainfall deficiency across the country from almost 21 per cent in end July to around 16 per cent on August 17.
“I think we are not still completely out of the woods and the damage that has already been done because of initial low rains cannot be compensated by the current spell,” said Ramesh Chand, director of National Centre for Agriculture Economics and Policy Research. “Even if we make up in acreage in some crops, the loss would still be there.”
He said there would be a definite fall in output of cereals this year as compared with 2011.
Last week, buoyed by the revival of rains, government said overall foodgrains production won’t be as bad as 2009 — when India suffered its last major drought — and output would be more than the 218.1 million tonnes recorded that year.
In Punjab and Haryana, the overall rainfall deficiency has narrowed down to around 65 per cent as on August 17 from a high of over 70 per cent because of the late resurgence in rains. In interior parts of Karnataka, the shortfall has narrowed to around 35 per cent of long period average (LPA) from a high of over 50 per cent. In western parts of Rajasthan, the deficiency has come down to around 21 per cent.
“The time left for maturing is now very little for pulses, coarse cereals and rice sown early. Hence, it will surely have an impact on the final yield,” Chand said.
Bloomberg news agency said in a report that India’s rice production might fall by five to seven million tonnes from last year’s record harvest of around 92 million tonnes, while overall foodgrains production could drop by 12 per cent.
Y K Alagh, eminent economist and former Union minister, said: “In a 90-day crop, if it does not rain properly for 40-45 days, how can it not have an impact on final harvest. I feel the current spell of good rains would help Punjab and Haryana farmers; but in Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, there would still be drought.”
In traditional rainfed areas, he said, even if it rains properly from now, most farmers would have already shelved their kharif plans and would now wait for the rabi season. Rains have also increased water levels in 84 major reservoirs across the country. From a low of 16 per cent of full reservoir level (FRL) in end June, the reservoirs are now almost 51 per cent of FRL. The number of reservoirs having less than normal water has also halved since June.
Acreage under paddy, which was languishing at around 26.43 million hectares as on August 8, has suddenly jumped by 4.4 million hectares in one week because of good rains.
Acreage under coarse cereals rose by 12 per cent in one week and that of pulses jumped 14.55 per cent.
“Good rains are welcome, but it is not a make-or-break story as some people are trying to put,” Alagh added.