Drought, lower prices pull down gram acreage in Maharashtra, Karnataka

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According to the latest data from the Ministry of Agriculture, rabi crops have been sown in around 19.12 million hectares. This is 16 per cent less 

than the same period last year.

Of the 63.43 million hectares so far in which rabi crops are normally sown, planting is over in almost 30 per cent of the land. Gram, one of the 

biggest pulses grown during the rabi season, has been planted in around 5.02 million hectares, which is nearly 21.51 per cent less than the area covered during the same period last year.

Experts said a sharp fall in price of gram last year, when the crop sold at a discount of around 20-30 per cent than the minimum support price (MSP), may also have prompted some farmers to go for alternative crop.

“From reports we are getting from the field, I think a big reason for a drop in gram acreage in Maharashtra and Karnataka is low soil moisture due to inadequate monsoon. But in the northern parts of the country, the picture is still not very clear as sowing there continued till middle of November,” said NP Singh, director of Kanpur-based Indian Institute of Pulses Research (IIPR).

According to data, farmers in Karnataka have sown pulses in only 0.73 million hectares so far this season compared with 1.3 million hectares in the same period last year. In Maharashtra, farmers planted pulses in only 0.56 million hectares so far this season against 1.06 million hectares in the year-ago period.

The southwest monsoon was almost 22 per cent below normal in Marathwada region of Maharashtra, while in north interior Karnataka the deficit was 29 per cent. It was 37 per cent below normal in Rayalseema. Thereafter, the winter rain didn’t do any good in these regions so far.

Singh said in case of lentil (masur), whose acreage has also dropped by almost 21 per cent as of November 16, much shouldn’t be read as sowing is still on in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, where the crop is generally grown.

Gram acreage in Madhya Pradesh, one of the biggest producers of the crop till Friday, was around 2.33 million hectares, almost the same as last year. In total, the crop is cultivated in around 3.07 million hectares of land in the state.The drop in acreage, along with low stocks with traders, has led to a mild upward swing in gram prices for the last few weeks.The crop is now selling closer to the state-mandated MSP of Rs4,620 per quintal.

Among other major crops, wheat, the biggest foodgrain grown during rabi season, has been sown in around 5.16 million hectares, which is 4.9 per cent less than last year while oilseeds (mainly mustard) has been sown in around 4.68 million hectares, which is 5.34 per cent less than last year.

Meanwhile, water levels in 91-odd reservoirs across the country dipped by another 3 per cent during the week that ended Friday

Data from the Central Water Commission showed that live storage available in these reservoirs is 103.735 billion cubic metres (BCM), which is 64 per cent of the total live storage capacity of these reservoirs. 

This is 99 per cent of the corresponding period last year and 97 per cent of the storage position of the last 10 years.

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