The current trends in rabi sowing, most of which takes place in November, hint at subdued activity this year, say traders in Gujarat.
As against 850,000 hectares last year, sowing has been in 450,100 hectares till November 12.
Subdued sowing has been on account of a weak monsoon, apart from depleting water resources in the state, with wells and reservoirs drying up.
“Considering the ongoing trends, it seems that sowing may be 50 per cent of what it was last year. If that happens, production will be restricted to 60 per cent of last year’s,” said Atul Kamani, president of the Commission Agents' Association at the Rajkot Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC).
Govt announces special package of Rs 13 billion
The dismal rabi sowing has prompted the Gujarat government to announce a special package of Rs 13 billion, taking its relief spending on farmers to more than Rs 65 billion for districts that saw deficient rain this monsoon.
Under the package, around 2 million farmers in 45 talukas will receive Rs 5,300-6,300 for every hectare of farmland they own.
Further, whatever water was available went into salvaging kharif crops earlier this year. “With farmers looking to salvage kharif crops like groundnut and others, there was hardly any water left for rabi crops. Also, as against initial heavy rain, the later part of the monsoon was deficient, thereby impacting the rabi sowing season. Crops like jeera and chana, which require small amounts of water, may see higher sowing,” said A V Barad, dean, agriculture, Junagadh Agricultural University (JAU).
This year, there was a shortage of water for irrigation in the Narmada canal network, which covers roughly one-third of the state’s irrigated land. The government had released over 20,000 cusecs of Narmada water to save the standing kharif crops.
Prolonged hot weather too has been responsible for delayed and subdued sowing. “Rabi crops require cold weather. However, till recently the weather continued to be hot,” Barad said.
Among the rabi crops, wheat sowing has been the lowest, at merely 21 per cent or 23,100 hectares, till November 12 compared to last year. As a result, the crop is set to witness a price hike, say traders. “Wheat prices may rise by one and a half times if the current sowing trends continue this year. With this, we anticipate wheat prices to rise from Rs 400 per 20 kg to Rs 600 per 20 kg this year,” Kamani said.
Among other rabi crops, cereals were sown in 57,100 hectares against last year's 162,100 hectares while pulses were sown in 55,600 hectares compared to 113,700 hectares last year. Oilseeds, on the other hand, have been sown in 106,200 hectares so far or 55.08 per cent of last year's 192,800 hectares.
Nafed softens stand, to join procurement
The National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (Nafed) had refused to procure groundnut and other pulses from the state. However, on Monday, the state government, in a press conference, said it would conduct joint groundnut procurement along with Nafed.