Sowing of kharif crops at a steady pace despite deficit monsoon

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Sowing of kharif crops continued to progress at a steady pace amid questions on the final output due to rain deficiency in several parts as well as a shift in acreage towards more profitable crops. 

Officials said despite the monsoon deficit widening to 11 per cent on Friday, rains have been fairly distributed so far, reflected in the manner in which the difference between area sown in 2017 and 2018 has narrowed down over the weeks. Experts, however, feel there could be some impact on the final output, which will be made clear by August end. 

“After two weeks of receiving normal rainfall, Saurashtra is troubled with deficient rainfall again. Heavy rainfall in parts of central Kerala has led to floods due to opening of reservoir shutters, thereby severely affecting tea, cardamom and rubber plantations,” Care Ratings said in a report released on Friday.

The data from the agriculture ministry showed that till Friday, kharif crops were sown in around 92.47 million hectares, down 1.48 per cent from the same period last year. Among crops, pulses were sown in around 12.41 million hectares, more than the normal area of 10.53 million hectares. However, it was 2.92 per cent less than the area covered during the same period last year, as several urad farmers in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra shifted to more lucrative soybeans in place of urad. Oilseeds, the area covered till Friday was almost 5.27 per cent more than last year, but that was mainly due to rise in area under soybeans, while acreage of groundnut and sunflower — the two main oilseeds grown during the kharif season — was less than last year. 

Groundnut acreage dropped in Gujarat as farmers shifted to other crops, while monsoon in Saurashtra and Kutch was also inadequate. Sunflower acreage was down due to low rains in parts of Karnataka. The area under cotton was around 3.85 per cent less than last year.

“Area under cultivation for major Kharif crops this season is in line with the normal area sown for this period of the season. However, it has been marginally lower than the acreage recorded in 2017, which was a year of bumper harvest,” CARE said.

The southwest monsoon, meanwhile, was 33 per cent below normal during the first week of August. This pulled down the cumulative shortfall to almost 10 per cent, making it one of the worst weeks in terms of performance of the southwest monsoon this year, showed a weekly update from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Thursday.

Almost all parts of the country barring Kerala (which is facing floods in several parts), Odisha, east UP, and Bihar received less-than-normal rainfall during the August 2-8 week.

So far in this southwest monsoon season, which is from June 1 to August 9, data showed that around 39 per cent of 681 districts in the country have received deficient rainfall, while showers have been normal in the remaining 61 per cent.

Jharkhand (-24%), Saurashtra and Kutch (-26%), North-Interior Karnataka (-24%), Rayalseema (-41%) and Marathwada (-18%) are the main pockets staring at a drought-like situation after two months of monsoon, unless there is big revival in the coming weeks.

Farmers from a village in Marathwada, meanwhile, have filed a police complaint against the IMD for making misleading forecasts and colluding with seed and pesticide companies to inflate monsoon forecasts. 

The met department, though, signaled a revival in monsoon in eastern India under the influence of a fresh low pressure area, which is likely to form over northwest Bay of Bengal and its neighbourhood around August 13.

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