With the revival of the monsoon in the country’s major food bowl of north-west, as also in the eastern states, since the third week of August and many other regions subsequently, the concern about the survival of the standing crops has abated. But this may not help much in improving crop coverage in the current kharif which is rather low, especially in case of paddy (down 5.6 million hectares) and groundnut (down by over one million hectares).
The area under sugarcane is also lagging marginally behind last year’s level (4.25 million hectares, against 4.38 million hectares last year). But the fresh spell of rains in the sugarcane belt in the north and anticipated showers in the cane bowl of Maharashtra and some southern states in the next few days will improve crop yield and its sucrose content.
A distinct feature of this year’s kharif sowing is that farmers have preferred to go in for crops which are fetching high prices. The area under pulses, such as tur, urad and moong, has expanded by nearly 6 lakh hectares in response to the current high ruling prices.
Some of the oilseed acreage, notably that of groundnut, has been shifted to pulses due to relatively low and stable prices of edible oils and poor rains. Soybean acreage is marginally up (9.37 million hectares, against last year’s 9.27 million hectares) anticipating good demand from the soy-based industry and improvement in the soymeal export prospects.
Maize and jowar, which are also anticipated to fetch good returns because of higher demand from poultry and starch industries, have also been planted on larger area though the total area under the coarse cereals has marginally declined.
However, the refilling of major reservoirs, which had topped last year’s level by the end of July, had suffered a set back due to the dry spell in the first half of August. Consequently, the total water stock of the 81 major reservoirs, which had risen to 52.8 billion cubic metres (BCM) by July 30 (higher than last year’s corresponding level of 47.1 BCM), had increased further only to 57.14 BCM by August 13, falling far short of the previous year’s position of 67.15 BCM on this date. The present level is well below the normal 68.84 BCM as well.
This is a matter for concern as it can adversely impact the availability of water for irrigation as well as for hydro-power production. However, the improvement in the rainfall situation since August 13 may help augment water storage in the coming weeks.
The recent rains have helped bring down, even if only slightly, the overall paucity of cumulative monsoon rainfall in the country from 29 per cent on August 12 to 28 per cent on August 16.
These showers reduced rainfall deficiency in the north-west from 43 per cent on August 12 to 40 per cent on August 16 and in the north-east from 36 per cent to 32 per cent. But, the deficiency remained almost static at 23 per cent in the southern peninsula and worsened slightly from 19 per cent to 21 per cent in the central India during this period.
However, parts of central India and peninsula have experienced some welcome showers in the past 2-3 days and more rains are predicted for next few days.
According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), an upper air circulation today lied over north Tamil Nadu and adjoining areas, which will cause widespread rainfall in parts of peninsula in next 3-4 days. Fairly widespread rainfall has also been forecast for West Bengal, Sikkim and Bihar in next 2 to 3 days.
The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has advised the traditional sunflower growers of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, who have been unable to plant the seeds so far, to sow the crop till early September. Castor can also be planted in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Orissa and Chhattisgarh till the third week of August.
In most parts of the country, short-duration crops of moong, urad, bajra, jowar, maize, niger (oilseed) and sesame can still be grown to mitigate the crop loss due to poor rains so far.