Some damage but still hope for soybean

Devkaran Malvi of Habidabad village has been less fortunate. Heavy rains brought down his yield from 15 quintals last year to less than 10,and he may not even recover the cost of cultivation.

Written by Milind Ghatwai | Published: October 12, 2012 2:48:42 am

Kamal Singh Yadav considers himself lucky that his land in Savatkhedi,about 10 km from Ashta in Madhya Pradesh,has a natural gradient,which does not let water stagnate or damage his soybean in times of excess rain. His crop has taken a 10 per cent hit but he may still escape losses because arrivals in the local mandi are much lower than last year,keeping demand high.

Devkaran Malvi of Habidabad village has been less fortunate. Heavy rains brought down his yield from 15 quintals last year to less than 10,and he may not even recover the cost of cultivation.

Both villages are in Sehore district,which,along with Harda,Hoshangabad and Raisen,suffered varying crop damages in heavy rainfall. Notwithstanding the contrasting fortunes of farmers in Madhya Pradesh,the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (under the Agriculture Ministry) and the Soybean Processors Association of India (SOPA) have estimated that the yield this season will be much more. SOPA’s first estimate of the kharif crop is 126.775 lakh tonne,marginally higher than DAC’s,126.19 lakh tonne.

The numbers had looked unlikely when the monsoon played truant and delayed sowing. Then the skies opened up in states like MP,which accounts for more than 50 per cent of the country’s production,and threatened to ruin the crop.

DAC and SOPA’s optimism stems in part from a four-per-cent increase in acerage. The crop was sown in 103.338 lakh hectares in 2011,which rose to 106.948 in 2012. DAC collects figures from each state and SOPA (with associate agencies) from major districts of MP,Maharashtra and Rajasthan,the three main soybean states. The margin of error is three per cent.

Depending on seed variety,the harvested crop starts arriving in mandis in September-end and,usually,the first 10 days of October witness heavy activity. But at mandis in Sehore,Ashta and Dewas,arrivals have been much lower than they were last year.

Experts and official agencies are not worried. In fact,they sense a new trend in the missing activity,one of farmers waiting till prices have risen. “Prices have gone down and farmers are not desperate to sell the harvested crop as was the case before,”says SOPA’s coordinator and spokesperson Rajesh Agrawal. He feels the ongoing shraddha paksha,during which involves homage is paid to ancestors,too has contributed to the low turnout.

In-charge of Directorate of Soybean Research,Indore,Dr S K Srivastava is confident that the estimates will hold true despite the vagaries of the monsoon; higher acerage will compensate for low productivity.

Barring small pockets,the Malwa region did not receive rains heavy enough to damage the crop,he says pointing out that in some areas sowing was done as late as July 20.

Explaining the low arrivals in mandis,Srivastava says only the 9650 variety has been harvested and farmers could be holding on to their produce due to fluctuations in price. After Rs 3,500 to Rs 4,000,the rate per quintal dropped to Rs 2,000 before rising to Rs 3,200 by Thursday.

Soybean is a global crop and India’s share is only 4 per cent. The country itself does not influence the global price but gets affected by fluctuations abroad.

If maintained properly,the harvested crop can last for a year. Three years ago,when prices crashed,many cultivators stored the crop and sold it the next year. The early arrivals that year were thanks to the previous year’s crop,a phenomenon that was new to MP where productivity is low and most farmers are marginal,which means they sell the produce at the first opportunity to meet their expenses.

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