The Maharashtra Agriculture department has advised farmers to delay their sowing operations as the onset of monsoon is likely to be delayed in the state. If the onset of the monsoon is delayed beyond the second week of June, the crops of udit (urad) and moong are likely to be hit as farmers normally finish sowing operations by then.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has tentatively fixed the onset date for monsoons as June 6 for Kerala with an error margin of four days. This is a seven-day delay from the normal date of onset, which historically is around June 1. Within seven days of its onset in Kerala, the monsoons sweep into Maharashtra and other parts of central India. As the date of onset is delayed, the monsoon is expected to hit Maharashtra only in the second week of June.
Suhas Diwase, commissioner of agriculture, said farmers are advised to delay sowing in accordance with the delay in monsoon. Also, sowing of pre-monsoon crop of cotton has been strongly dissuaded as part of the integrated pest management programme to control the pink bollworm infestation in the crop. The department has even banned the sale of cotton seeds till the end of May to prevent early sowing. Even the IMD is yet to come out with its first sowing advisory for the season.
Kharif is the major season for farmers in Maharashtra with crops like soyabean, tur, wheat, moong, udit and cotton dominating the landscape. Of these, moong and udit are early sowing, short-duration crops with farmers normally sowing them in June and harvesting after three months. Normally, the state records around 8 lakh hectares of sowing of both these lentils. In case the monsoon is delayed, the sowing of both the crops will be hit. Nitin Kalantri, a dal miller and trader operating from Latur, said in case states like Rajasthan receive good rainfall, the national moong acreage might not suffer much.
What is more of a concern for farmers is the scarcity of drinking water and fodder for their animals. Milk production in the state has dipped by around 20 per cent and cost of dry fodder has escalated multifolds. If the rains fail to come on time, the scarcity will only aggravate in the days to come. What can be a further concern for farmers is the possible loss of vegetable crops. Jagdish Apshunde, a trader from the Nashik market, said the present vegetable crop is suffering from pest infestation. “A price escalation is in the offing in the vegetable markets as the crop will be delayed. If the monsoon is delayed by more than seven days then things will be very difficult,” he said.