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Monday, October 26, 2020

Explained: How scanty rainfall could raise food inflation

A report published by Care Ratings on 29th July states that the number of meteorological subdivisions recording “scanty or deficient” rainfall is at a five-year high, the last time this occurred being in 2014. How will this affect agriculture?

By: Explained Desk | Updated: July 30, 2019 6:58:49 pm
impact of southwest monsoon rainfall on agriculture in India All major Kharif crops except sugarcane and cotton have exhibited lower sowing as of 25th July than the normal sowing for this corresponding week each year. (File/Reuters)

(Written by Rudra Mani Tripathy)

A deficient level of rainfall in this year’s south-west monsoon is proving to be a cause for concern, with 21 meteorological subdivisions – 60% of the 36 subdivision total – experiencing deficient rainfall as compared to the normal level. The cumulative period from 1st June to 24th July has displayed a negative deviation of 19% from normal rainfall levels, with only 313.1mm of rainfall occurring, compared to a normal rainfall level of 384.7mm for this period.

What has been the rainfall pattern for this monsoon season so far?

A report published by Care Ratings on 29th July states that the number of meteorological subdivisions recording “scanty or deficient” rainfall is at a five-year high, the last time this occurred being in 2014, when 22 such subdivisions reported deficient rainfall, qualifying as a “near-drought situation”. In all the preceding four years, 24 or more subdivisions reported an excess of normal rainfall, compared to only 15 subdivisions reporting the same this year.

impact of southwest monsoon rainfall on agriculture in India Rainfall patterns in the 36 meteorological divisions in India.

The highest level of deficient rainfall this monsoon so far has been recorded by Saurashtra, Kutch and Diu, with a deviation of -55% occurring. This was followed by Gangetic West Bengal, where rainfall has been 54% lower than normal, and West Rajasthan, which recorded a deviation of -45%.

Fifteen subdivisions recorded rainfall levels that were at least at the normal level. Of these, 9 subdivisions recorded excess rainfall, with the highest being Lakshadweep, where there was a +14% deviation from the normal level.

How has this deficiency in rainfall affected reservoir levels?

impact of southwest monsoon rainfall on agriculture in India Reservoir levels upto July 25, 2019.

According to the report, as of 25th July, there are 40.8 billion cubic metres of water as live storage in the 91 reservoirs across the country. This is 38.4% lower than the live storage in these reservoirs at the same time last year. This 38.4% difference has only been widening in the past few weeks, being -24.9% (that is, 24.9% lower than the live storage at the same time last year) the previous week and only -8% the week before that.

The average of the previous 10 years live storage has been 35% of the full capacity of these reservoirs, but currently, the live storage level is only 25.1% of the full storage level, which is dramatically lower than the average of the past 10 years.

Explained: Why low water levels halfway through monsoon is a matter of worry

What has been the impact of the rainfall deficiency on agriculture?

All major Kharif crops except sugarcane and cotton have exhibited lower sowing as of 25th July than the normal sowing for this corresponding week each year. The report states that sugarcane has found 2.7 lakh hectares more (as compared to the normal) of land for its sowing, while sowing of cotton is 4.5 lakh hectares more than the normal. The sowing of sugarcane is also lower than it was in 2018, though the sowing of groundnuts, while lower than the normal, is 1.4 lakh hectares up from what it was in 2018.

A negative deviation of 32.1 lakh hectares was recorded in the cultivation of rice, along with a deviation of -43.9 lakh hectares for cereals as a whole. Despite increases in the minimum support price of crops from 50% up to 85%, sowing is much lower than the normal for this time of the year. Bajra, which received an 85% increase in its minimum support price, also saw 7.6 lakh hectares less than the normal of area sown. The sowing of foodgrains has experienced a deviation of 57.0 lakh hectares lower the normal at the corresponding period of the year. The rate of food inflation is presently nearing 7%, and the effects of the weak monsoon on lowering the rate of crop cultivation is expected to push up the already-high rate even further.

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The writer is an intern with The Indian Express

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