With the wait for the southwest monsoon getting longer in the country’s key growing regions, farmers are expected to prefer short-duration crops this kharif season (May-August), such as millets, pulses and vegetables. The sowing for longer-duration crops such as cotton, groundnut and paddy is feared to drop about 15 per cent.
Details from the Union ministry of agriculture showed of the normal cropped area of 105.7 million hectares during the entire kharif season, sowing was complete on 14.8 per cent of the area so far, against 16.2 per cent during the same period last year. "The next 10 days are crucial for sowing. However, at many places, farmers have already started shifting from cotton to other crops like pulses or millets. Some of the key growing states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Andhra have received much less rain, affecting seed demand," said Uday Singh, former president of the National Seed Association of India and managing director of Namdhari Seeds Pvt Ltd, Bangalore.
"Many states have already prepared their contingency plans on a delay in rain. Farmers in many states would go for short-duration crops requiring lesser resources, including water, as they are faster to mature. We expect the demand for such seeds to go up sharply," informed a senior official at the government-owned National Seeds Corporation.
Adding: "We have about 60,000 quintals of seeds, while little over 1,000 quintals of vegetable seeds are available. We have several private sector partners, so there would not be an availability issue."
According to Monsanto India Ltd, the company does not see any adverse impact on the demand for seeds with the high possibility of farmers shifting to shorter duration crops or preferring hybrid varieties within the crop. "Farmers choose to plant a crop based on several factors, including commodity prices, returns and convenience. In this kharif season, we expect farmers to increase planting of corn, soybean, castor and groundnut, and some reduction in cotton, chillies and paddy acres as compared to the kharif season last year," said a Monsanto India spokesperson.
“Sowing has taken place in some parts of the irrigated regions. But in most parts, crops are largely dependent on the southwest monsoon. A delay in it would prompt a change in cropping pattern because viability is also a major concern for farmers," said a scientist at Anand Agricultural University, Anand.
Nuziveedu Seeds, the country’s largest by sales (of Rs 1,100 crore last year), sees some impact of the delayed monsoon on cotton seed sales. "Last year, total cotton seed sales was about 42.5 million packets (each weighing 450g), which may fall 15 per cent this year," said a company official.
Earlier this week, Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar had said the monsoon delay had affected sowing of coarse cereals in Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Karnataka but provided an opportunity to increase the area under pulses and oilseeds, grown as contingent crops in such areas.