Most of the country’s rice bowl running dryhttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/most-of-the-countrys-rice-bowl-running-dry/

Most of the country’s rice bowl running dry

Over 90 pct of districts monitored by Met department in seven rice-producing states have received scanty or deficient rainfall this monsoon.

Over 90 per cent of districts monitored by the Met department in seven of India’s biggest rice-producing states have received scanty or deficient rainfall this monsoon,severely hitting prospects of kharif,making it unlikely the country will reach last year’s record production level of 99.15 million tonnes (including winter rice).

These seven states — Punjab,Haryana,Uttar Pradesh,Bihar,Jharkhand,West Bengal and Assam — account for over 51 per cent of India’s paddy acreage,and produce about 53 per cent of the country’s rice. Of the 182 meteorological districts in these states,rainfall has been deficient in 90 and scanty in 78 between June 1 and July 22.

The government hopes good irrigation facilities in Punjab and Haryana will counter deficient rainfall and minimize losses in rice production; however,it will have to factor in losses due to floods in Orissa. Orissa accounts for over 10 per cent of paddy acreage,and contributes about 7.5 per cent of rice production.

Agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan has suggested the government should focus on compensatory production in the areas that have received sufficient rainfall.

“In the backdrop of the current monsoon situation,the areas that have received less than normal rainfall but have enough moisture should be considered as ‘most favourably affected’ regions,where government should focus on compensatory production,” Swaminathan told The Indian Express.

“For example,top dressing of rice fields in such regions with about 20 kg of nitrogenous fertilizer may yield about one tonne more rice per hectare. These things should be actively pursued for compensatory production,” he explained.

Swaminathan’s suggestion is especially significant in view of the fact that the Agriculture Ministry has recorded that sowing of paddy is already behind by over 21 per cent as of mid-July,which is considered to be the last part of the kharif sowing window.

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A decline in rice production this kharif season is not likely to endanger food security in the short-term,given that the government has stocks for over a year. However,it will have to keep its fingers crossed for the rabi crop. Rabi prospects will depend a lot on how the monsoon fares for the rest of the season — good rains will help restore the soil’s moisture,necessary for a good crop,primarily wheat.