Kharif sowing picks up pace, even as rainfall gets delayed

According to an FE analysis, the deficit in total kharif acreage has narrowed down to 1-14% for different crops as on July 6, from 7-62% recorded until June 21 in key agricultural states

Even as monsoon rainfall deficit has widened in the last 15 days, farmers have increased sowing activities in key states namely Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Haryana and Gujarat, in anticipation of rains. In line with the India Meteorological Department’s (IMD) prediction, monsoon revived after a gap of three weeks on Saturday.

The overall acreage of summer crops at about 50 million hectare was still 10% below last year’s level as of July 9. Sowing has been completed in nearly half of the normal area, according to agriculture ministry. However, the pick-up in sowing activity over the last few days allowed the gap to narrow from 22% as of June 25 (see graph).

The key kharif cereal paddy acreage was down 9% at 11.5 million hectare on July 9. By end of July, sowing in 85% of the season’s net sown area gets completed.

According to an FE analysis, the deficit in total kharif acreage has narrowed down to 1-14% for different crops as on July 6, from 7-62% recorded until June 21 in key agricultural states. Though sowing area under some crops like paddy, urad and groundnut still trails the year-ago levels in Uttar Pradesh, the overall kharif acreage in the state was higher by about 6% as of June 30.

Though updated sowing data of Madhya Pradesh is not available, there was no concern over sowing area in the state since it was 4 times higher a fortnight back from year-ago levels. “Whatever has been sown was due to a good spell of rains that Madhya Pradesh received in the first three weeks of June. As kharif crops need intermittent rains, particularly in non-irrigated areas, a long dry spell is not good. The areas where crops have been sown need urgent rains and hopefully monsoon will be revived as predicted,” said a senior government official of Madhya Pradesh.

Heavy rainfall has been reported from some parts of east and southern India. “Conditions continue to remain favourable for further advance of southwest monsoon over Delhi, remaining parts of west Uttar Pradesh and some more parts of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan during next 24 hours. Conditions are also becoming favourable for further advance of monsoon over remaining parts of the country during the subsequent 48 hours,” IMD said in a statement on July 11.

Areas under some pulses and oilseeds, which are sown in high-plateau regions, were higher than the year-ago period as on July 6. For instance, pulses acreage in Haryana was three times higher at 44,000 hectare than year-ago level and already reached 88% of target. Overall pulses areas across the country was down 1.6% at 5.2 million hectare until last Friday, each of the varieties, except moong, have recorded at par with year-ago acreage.

“Less than 40% of the normal pulses area has been completed, so far. As July is predicted to receive 94% of the normal rains, there may not be any problem as pulses crops are susceptible to damage on higher rains if water logging happens for more than 5 days during this time,” said SK Singh, a former agriculture scientist with Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). States have to ensure the pace of sowing picks up this month in key states like Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Karnataka, Singh added.

Farmers in Maharashtra have completed sowing on nearly 9.2 million hectare (or 65% of the targeted area) as of July 5 in ongoing kharif season, as against 10.75 million hectare in the year-ago period. Paddy cultivation is in progress in the Konkan region and is in the nursery stage. Some of the planting is becoming yellow due to lack of rains, state officials said.

“If it does not rain in the next 8-10 days, farmers may be required to do re-sowing operations. In Marathwada region, farmers are worried since they may have to re-sow their cotton and soyabean crops if it does not rain on time,” an agriculture department official of Maharashtra said.

The next few days are going to be crucial for most farmers because if it does not rain, they would have to opt for alternative crops, especially for those who grow moong and urad as these short duration crops prepare the fields for commercial crops like sugarcane or banana. Maharashtra received 325.7 mm rainfall between June 1 and July 10, which is 4% above normal.

Farmers in Haryana, which has 89% irrigated land, have already completed sowing in over half of the normal area of 3.02 million hectare, as of July 6, despite 33% lower than normal rains, until July 10. The sowing activities are likely to get a boost with the revival of monsoon. The deficit gap in Gujarat’s sowing area narrowed down significantly as it is just 1% below last-year’s level, whereas acreage was (-) 50% a fortnight back. The state has reported crops coverage (as of July 5) in 47% of the normal area of about 8.5 million hectare.

As per official data, the Indian economy contracted by 7.3%, the sharpest in record history, in FY21. But the agriculture and allied sector remained one of the brightest spots, with 3.6% growth in gross value added (GVA) in real term even on a relatively unfavourable base (the farm sector GVA grew as much as 4.3% in FY20). Niti Aayog member Ramesh Chand has said there will be higher agriculture growth this year than FY21.

During 2020-21, total area sown under kharif crops was at 109.54 million hectare, as against 108.57 million hectare in 2019-20.

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