With 31 of India’s 36 meteorological sub-divisions recording deficient-to-scanty monsoon rainfall so far, sowing by farmers in the current kharif cropping season has been over 25 per cent below the normal levels for this period.
According to the Agriculture Ministry’s latest sowing data released Friday, the total area planted under all crops during this kharif season has been only 146.61 lakh hectares (lh), as against last year’s corresponding coverage of 162.07 lh and the normal five-year-average of 196.66 lh for the same period. The season roughly begins from June 1 with the onset of the southwest monsoon.
Pulses have taken the maximum hit, with a mere 3.42 lh being planted, which is way below the 8.86 lh and 18.18 lh area sown during this time in 2018 and 2017, respectively.
All major kharif pulses have reported huge declines: arhar or pigeon-pea (0.84 lh versus 3.69 lh and 5.82 lh for the preceding two years), urad or black gram (0.62 lh versus 1.05 lh and 2 lh) and moong or green gram (1.04 lh versus 2.75 lh and 6.58 lh).
Oilseeds and coarse cereals, too, have registered significant shortfalls relative to their normal acreages for June. Even these would have been worse, but for a somewhat decent monsoon in Rajasthan and the Saurashtra region of Gujarat receiving showers during the second and third week of this month, thanks to the effects of Cyclone Vayu.
As a result, the area under groundnut is up (9.81 lh, against 4.40 lh in 2018 and a normal average of 8.56 lh for this time), especially so in the two states.
On the other hand, soyabean acreage has witnessed huge contraction (2.75 lh versus 8.56 lh and 14.10 lh), with the bulk of planting happening only in Rajasthan and very little in Madhya Pradesh or Maharashtra. Rajasthan has, likewise, seen good progress in sowing of bajra (pearl-millet) and maize — in contrast to Karnataka, which is a major producer of maize.
According to the Met Department, the all-India area-weighted rainfall during June 1-28, at 97.9 mm, was more than 35 per cent lower than its corresponding long period average of 151.2 mm.
While June has been practically dry, a revival in monsoon can still enable sowing in most kharif crops, for which the window extends till mid-July.
The Met has forecast the formation of a low pressure area over the north Bay of Bengal and neighbourhood around June 30, “which is likely to become more marked and concentrate into a depression during the subsequent 48 hours”. That should favour the further advance of the monsoon into the remaining areas of central India and more parts of western and northwest India by early July.
The other heartening feature is that the Food Corporation of India currently has over 82 million tonnes (mt) of wheat and rice stocks, which is nearly twice the required minimum buffer. Also, government agencies for the first time are holding around 4.1 mt of pulses, which should be sufficient insurance against any possible drought situation.