Kharif sowing picks up momentum, but acreage still below last year

Sowing of kharif crops continued to be slack compared to the same period last year primarily due to a lull in the monsoon during June. 

However, there was some improvement from last week as the rains have revived over central, north and western India. According to data from the department of agriculture, till Friday, kharif crops have been sown in around 33.37 million hectares, which was around 14.17 per cent less than the area covered during the same period last year.

Till last week, the difference was almost 22 per cent. This was among the steepest drops in acreage in June during the last few years. Between last and this week, there has been an improvement in sowing. Compared to the normal area covered, sowing in 2018 is almost 10 per cent less till July 6. Normal area covered is the average of the last five years.

Officials said that with the southwest monsoon becoming active again over several oilseeds, pulses, coarse cereals and cotton growing regions of central, west and north India, sowing is bound to pick up. Till July 5, the southwest monsoon is around 7 per cent less than the normal. 

The southwest monsoon covered the entire country by the end of June, more than a fortnight before its scheduled coverage data. But out of the 653 districts for which data is available, the southwest monsoon was deficient in 40 per cent of them till July 4. Monsoon was normal in the remaining districts.

The monsoon which has been forecast to be normal this year just like in 2017, went for an elongated break starting June 13, after making a promising start in June. This lull pulled down sowing.

However, with the rains reviving from June end, the shortfall might be bridged as the sowing window is still wide open for most crops.

Among major crops, cotton sowing has been hit the most, with data showing that its acreage is around 24 per cent less than last year. Pulses has been planted in around 19.36 per cent less area compared to last year, while oilseeds and coarse cereals’ acreage are also 13.4 per cent less than last year.

For rice, which is the main foodgrain grown during the kharif season, the area covered till July 5 is around 15 per cent less than last year. 

This is because the monsoon was delayed in parts of eastern India.

Earlier this week, the central government sharply raised the minimum support price (MSP) for kharif crops of which paddy and cotton were among the top gainers. 

Experts said this should act as an added incentive to farmers to boost sowing. However, more than the MSP, it is the monsoon which determines farmers’ sowing preferences.

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