Amid growing concern over a slow and weak progression of this year’s southwest monsoon, the government today assured the nation that the situation for most kharif crops, barring coarse cereals, had not turned worrisome yet. Experts, however, cast doubts over the claims, particularly on water-intensive paddy cultivation.
The situation in kharif crops is “not as serious now”, but the department has directed states to prepare contingency plans, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar told reporters.
Maharashtra and Karnataka have been identified as the two states where the kharif crops are most vulnerable because of “inordinate delay” in the onset of the monsoon, added officials from the ministry.
- Coarse cereal output might get hit due to delayed rainfall
- Govt says paddy situation comfortable, as sowing would be on till July; experts disagree
- Govt claims no problem in pulses and oilseeds as there is still ample time to complete sowing
- Met dept assures of normal rains in July and August
- States directed to prepare contingency plans for high-risk areas
The southwest monsoon in June was 31 per cent below normal. It was on June 5 that the rains entered India, after a delay of four days, going by the usual schedule.
“Yes, thesouthwest monsoon has been less in June and there has been some impact on early sowing of kharif crops. But the acreage of main kharif crops like paddy (de-husked rice), pulses, cotton, oilseeds and sugarcane is higher than the normal area during the same time of the year,” Pawar said. However, for most of these, acreage till June 30 is less than the corresponding period last year.
The minister pointed out crops could be affected in some pockets of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, besides parts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where early sowing has taken place. “But that is very less.” As for paddy, till June-end, the percentage of the normal area sown was “almost 9”, which is less than last year. But, there is “no cause for alarm” as paddy sowing can continue till end-July.
Till last month, paddy has been sown in around 3.96 million hectares, while the normal area under paddy during the same period is 3.93 million hectares. It is around 26 per cent less than the year-ago period. “This shows that acreage might be less as of now for paddy, but it is, in fact, more than the normal area,” the minister said.
There is “still time to recoup the losses”, he said, hoping the situation would turn favourable soon. India Meteorological Department has informed Pawar that the southwest monsoon would be 98 per cent of long period average (LPA) in July and 98 per cent of LPA in August, which is normal.
“Seventy per cent of total rainfall during the entire monsoon season is in July and August. Met department tells me rains in these two months will be normal,” he said.
However, experts are not as optimist.
If rains do not come to northwestern parts of the country by this weekend, then it would cause some serious problem to (rain-fed) paddy crop in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh,” said Ramesh Chand, director of National Centre For Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NCAP). “The impact will be felt in three ways: the area (of cultivation) will continue to remain low, production will go down and the cost of producing paddy will increase,” he added.
Pawar said coarse cereals had been sown in around 1.40 million hectares till June-end — almost 43 per cent less than the normal area of 2.47 million hectares.
Sowing of maize, bajra and jowar has been badly hit in Bihar, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh, as rains have been delayed, he said. Officials listed as “vulnerable” the rabi crop in southern Karnataka, sorghum in Maharashtra, coarse cereals and groundnut in Gujarat and groundnut in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Pawar said some area in coarse cereals in Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Karnataka could get diverted to oilseeds and pulses. “For, these two are contingent crops to coarse cereals.”
Among other crops, Pawar said pulses had been sown in around 0.40 million hectares of land till June-end. This is 0.21 million hectares less than last year. “But sowing of pulses usually rises from July. So there is still time before we can reach any conclusion on the losses in pulses this year.”
For oilseeds, the crop has been sown in around 1.8 million hectares, while the normal area during the same time of the year is 1.25 million hectares. The acreage, though more than the normal area, is less than last year because of less sowing in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat. Among cash crops, the area under cotton and sugarcane is more than the normal area, hence there “is no cause to worry”. Overall, he said kharif sowing has been completed in 14.8 per cent of the normal area till now, while it was 16.2 per cent in the corresponding period of last year.
The minister said despite the relatively comfortable situation, his department has directed all states, particularly the most vulnerable ones, to prepare contingency plans to avoid any unforeseen circumstance.
“We have over 82 million tonnes of foodgrains in the central pool against a requirement of 33 million tonnes and government will ensure that states get adequate amount of foodgrains if the need arises. We could also sell wheat and rice in the open market if there is any unusual movement in prices,” he said.
On reservoir levels, Pawar said water levels is 103 per cent of normal storage levels, which is satisfactory. “In Punjab and Haryana, there is minimum impact of low rains as almost 90-95 per cent of the total arable land is under irrigation.”
Supplies of other essential items like milk, fruits and vegetables, he said, would not be effected due to low rains. “Fruit and vegetable supplies usually go down during summer months and this has nothing to do with low rains so far,” he added.