After a lull in June, farmers in north and central India expect to expedite sowing in the first week of July owing to rapid progress of the monsoon post June 29.
Sowing of major crops at the end of June stands at 16.5 million hectares, 15 per cent less than the average of the last decade, data from the department of agriculture shows. The reason behind this shortfall, experts say, is the long 15-day hiatus in the progress of the southwest monsoon over central and north India in June, despite the fact that rainfall in June was 95 per cent—near normal—of the long period average.
More importantly, there have been two instances in the last decade when sowing in June was better with lesser rainfall. Officials from the agriculture ministry, however, say that apart from the quantum of rainfall, development of required soil moisture for transplantation and spatial distribution of the rains are equally important for sowing.
This could delay the sowing without affecting crop production if rainfall between July and September is normal, they said. However, data also shows that in the years when June sowing was less than normal, overall kharif crop production declined.
“The actual outturn of the monsoon will be vital for replenishing reservoir and ground water levels, and supporting timely sowing and eventual yields,” ratings agency Icra said in its June macro-economy update.
Economists say that if sowing suffers due to poor monsoon even in July, it could have a serious impact on inflation. Decline in production after a bumper crop year would raise wholesale prices and push up consumer inflation.
On the other hand, the minimum support prices to be announced later this week may also move up the inflation, members of the monetary policy committee (MPC) of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) noted in the June monetary policy.
“Any upward pressure on food prices, such as through generous minimum support prices (MSPs), would exacerbate headline inflation pressures,” Viral Acharya, deputy governor of RBI, noted in the MPC meeting.
Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Punjab have led the decline in sowing. Oilseeds, which are the mainstay of agriculture in Madhya Pradesh, have been planted on only 200,000 hectares compared to the average of 1.3 million hectares, a drop of 1.1 million hectares till the end of June 2018.
Pulses and cotton, two major crops in Maharashtra and Gujarat, have suffered a similar fate in June with a substantial drop in sowing during the month. Punjab, the rice bowl of India, has seen a 40% fall in sowing of paddy.
After covering the peninsula and advancing to parts of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Odisha till June 9, the progress was stalled due to lack of favourable conditions in central India.