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The Union ministry of agriculture says it is ensuring the availability of seeds and fertilisers, as an advance check against unseasonal or delayed rain in the ensuing kharif season.
The rains were delayed in the previous season. This time, the ministry says it has kept room for accommodating re-sowing in at least two to three million hectares (ha) during the kharif. Re-sowing is needed when the first sowing doesn't give a result due to late rain; after rain (or a natural calamity such as drought or flood), farmers might prefer to re-sow the same commodity. In such cases, additional seeds and fertilisers are required, and the government says it is now trying to ensure this.
Partial drought in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal resulted in a nine-million tonne shortfall in foodgrain production last year. According to the second advance estimates in February this year, total foodgrain output was 250.14 million tonnes (mt) in 2012-13, compared with 259.32 mt the previous year. Rice fell by two mt to 104 mt and coarse cereals by five mt to 44 mt. However, a favourable climate in the rabi season yielded 10.6 mt of additional wheat production, at 88 mt.
Last year, the monsoon started with a delay of around four weeks, resulting in proportionate delay in sowing and a marginal loss in coverage area. "This year, therefore, the government does not want to take a risk, especially when the passing of the Food Security Bill requires higher foodgrain output. Hence, the government is looking at higher availability of seeds in case natural calamities this year result in the need for re-sowing," said a ministry official.
And, against the total fertiliser sale of 24.4 mt in the 2012 kharif season, the ministry is working on being able to use 31.7 mt this year. The department of fertilisers recently said there was sufficient quantity for farmers' requirements. Urea stock for the ensuing kharif is likely to be 15.3 mt, against last year's sales of 13.6 mt.
The meteorological department is yet to make a monsoon forecast but non-government forecasters have estimated a normal rainfall this year.
The government also has a contingency plan in place, in case of crop damage due to drought or other calamities in parts of the country. The agriculture ministry has earmarked one per cent of the allocation for the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana for a contingent crop programme. Unspent amounts can be be used for regular medium-term mitigation programmes.