The north-western and north-eastern regions of the country, which had remained the most rain-starved till the middle of July, have experienced copious showers in the past week or so. This has not only brought down the rainfall deficiency to manageable levels but have, more significantly, created favourable conditions for crop planting even in those areas which ran the risk of being left unsown in the current kharif season.
The deficiency in the cumulative rainfall from the beginning of the monsoon season on June 1 in the country has gradually shrunk from 43 per cent on July 2 to 34 per cent on July 9, 24 per cent on July 16 and 18 per cent on July 23.
RAINFALL DEFICIT SINCE JUNE 1
Though the north-western and north-eastern regions had remained woefully rain-deficient — almost under drought — till July 23, but good showers have been reported even in these areas in the subsequent week. These rains are still continuing in these tracks.
The current rainfall pattern is the result of the monsoon trough shifting to the foothills of the Himalayas. Such a situation often results in subdued monsoon and low rainfall in central India and southern peninsula but vigorous monsoon and heavy rains in the north-west and north-east.
Many of the pockets formally declared as drought-hit in some states, such as Manipur, Assam, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, have received good rainfall in the past week to 10 days. This has opened up the possibility of raising shorter-duration crops in these areas.
People living around the Sutlej in Punjab have been alerted against possible inundation due to heavy rainfall in the upper catchments of the river in the Himalayas. In the plains of the state, torrential showers in past 2 days have prompted the Punjab Agriculture University to warn the farmers against crop damage due to water-logging in the fields. In Bihar, the authorities are concerned over the rising level in river Kosi due to heavy rainfall in areas around it. The discharge of additional water by Nepal has aggravated this threat. However, the danger of drought in several districts of the state has abated.
Apart from paddy, which may not be able to cover the same acreage as in last year, the sowing of other crops is expected to be more or less normal by the end of the season. Some crops like cotton and pulses, have already been seeded in larger tracts than last year and their crop stand is reported to be normal in most areas.
Tur or arhar, the highest priced pulse on Wednesday, is estimated by the agriculture ministry to have been planted on about 3.66 lakh hectares additional area this year. In fact, the area under all the kharif pulses is reported to be around 38.38 lakh hectares, just marginally below last year’s 40.7 lakh hectares, thanks to larger plantings in Karnataka (additional 4 lakh hectares), Madhya Pradesh (additional 1.6 lakh hectares), Maharashtra (additional 1.7 lakh hectares) and Andhra Pradesh (additional 0.5 lakh hectares).
The coverage under cotton is estimated at 68.9 lakh hectares, against last year’s 61.68 lakh hectares. The sowing is still in progress.
In the case of paddy, the advisory issued by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) says the yield loss due to belated sowing can be mitigated to an extent by either opting for relatively shorter duration varieties or going in for direct sowing of sprouted seeds to save on time.
In case of inordinate delay in paddy planting, the farmers have been advised to switch over to alternative crops, such as quicker growing pulses like moong and urad, which can be seeded up to August-end; or coarse cereals like finger millets, ragi, sorghum and niger, which can also be safely planted till August-end; or else maize and tur, which can be sown as late as in the first week of September.
Indeed, the steady improvement in the rainfall has been reflected in the replenishment of the water reservoirs all over the country. The total water stock in the 81 major reservoirs regularly monitored by the Central Water Commission has gradually risen from mere 16 billion cubic metres (BCM), or 51.5 per cent below normal, on July 9, to 20.73 BCM (-45 per cent) on July 16 and 34.32 BCM (-22 per cent) on July 23. The situation must have improved further by now.