Consumers can hope for some relief from spiralling dal and edible oil prices, with farmers significantly stepping up sowing of pulses and oilseeds on the back of bountiful monsoon rain.
This comes even as the Met department announced Friday that the south-west monsoon has now covered the entire country and the season’s overall rainfall has so far been nearly 27 per cent higher than the normal average for this period.
The good spell of rains in June across central, western and southern India has led to the progressive area planted under kharif pulses nearly doubling to 11.04 lakh hectares (lh), from 6.14 lh covered during this period last year, while going up more than five times in the case of oilseeds (from 5.29 to 27.89 lh).
The main pulses-growing states — Karnataka, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh (MP) — have reported substantial jump in sowing of arhar (toor or pigeon-pea), moong (green gram) and urad (black gram) this time. Likewise, there has been a huge jump in acreages under soyabean in MP (from practically zero at this time last year to 15.82 lh) and groundnut in Gujarat (from 0.64 lh to 3.71 lh) and Andhra Pradesh (from 0.48 lh to 0.91 lh), thanks to monsoon’s timely arrival.
This is good news also for consumers, who have seen dal prices soar by roughly 50 per cent over the last one year. Mustard oil is, likewise, currently retailing at around Rs 125 per kg in Delhi compared to Rs 100 a year ago, while groundnut oil prices in Ahmedabad have soared from Rs 85 to 120 a kg for this period. Low domestic production has also resulted in India’s aggregate import bill on edible oils and pulses climbing from $9.08 billion in 2013-14 to $ 12.46 billion in 2014-15.
“The picture on pulses and oilseeds is encouraging as of now, though a lot will depend on July and August rains. June rains are important for sowing, but contribute less than a fifth of the season’s total rainfall. Plant growth and yields will be mainly influenced by how the monsoon plays out in the next couple of months,” an Agriculture Ministry official pointed out.
The monsoon’s better-than-expected performance so far has also enabled increase in acreages under cotton and coarse grains such as maize. However, rice area has fallen.
The main reason for that is the monsoon rains have not been that good in the Indo-Gangetic plains stretching from Punjab and Haryana to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.
“Transplanting has been generally slow in these states, but will pick up given the monsoon’s spread and the good spell of rains in the last couple of days. Besides, from an inflationary perspective, there is not much to worry on the rice front, as the government has enough stocks in its godowns. Our primary concern now is pulses and oilseeds,” the official added.