Planting will pick up if rains revive this month

As the advancing monsoon continues to evade central and western parts, the fate of cotton and soyabean, key crops in these regions, hangs in balance.

The monsoon is yet to hit parts of northern Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, while it has progressed to Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and even Rajasthan in past couple of days.

Searing seedlings

“The situation is not looking good and shortfall in rains has reduced the sowing window. Farmers should take up the early maturing varieties,” said KR Kranthi, Director of the Nagpur-based Central Institute of Cotton Research. Cotton sowing can be taken up in Maharashtra till July 18-20, though it can go up to first week of August in Andhra Pradesh.

So far only about 5 per cent of the cotton area of 40 lakh hectares (lh) has been covered in Maharashtra. In some parts of the State, the seedlings are dying due to the extreme heat and farmers may have to take up replanting. Even in 2011, when June was a dry month, cotton was planted on about 10 per cent of the area in Maharashtra, Kranthi said.

Cotton coverage

Rain-deficit across the country stood at 43 per cent till date. Key cotton growing regions in the Central India – Vidarbha had a deficit of 66 per cent so far, while it stood at 80 per cent in Marathwada. In Madhya Pradesh, the monsoon is yet to advance, though by June 15 the State should have been covered by the rains.

Till end of last week, cotton was planted on about 29 lh, against a normal coverage of 35 lh. In the northern States of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, where seeding is already complete, cotton has been planted on about 12.9 lh, almost similar to last year’s 13.4 lh.

Better sales seen

The shortfall is mainly in Maharashtra, where cotton has been seeded on about 2.27 lh (8.24 lh). In Andhra Pradesh, an acreage of 0.69 lh has been covered against 3.46 lh last year, while in Gujarat the seeded area stood at 5.35 lh, marginally lower than last year.

M Prabhakar Rao, Chairman, Nuziveedu Seeds, said, “In a below normal rain scenario, cotton can be a good crop for the farmers to depend upon. If rains revive in July, as forecast by the IMD, cotton sowing should sick up. Cotton might gain acreages from other crops such as paddy, pulses and soyabean.”

Predicting an increase in area under the fibre crop and better seed sales, Rao said, “acreages should not be a problem, but it all depends upon the rainfall over the next three months.”

However, M Ramasami, Chairman of Rasi Seeds, said situation in central and southern cotton growing regions was worrisome. The farmers are confused and there have been no sales of seeds in the last 10 days, he added.

Cotton exporter, MB Lal of Shail Exports said it was too early to assess the impact of delayed rains on acreages or yields. The recovery of monsoon was expected and a clearer picture will emerge by July-end.

Rajesh Aggarwal, spokesperson for the Soyabean Processors Association of India, said that the planting of oilseeds was yet to start. The delay in sowing is not as much an issue, while the rains in latter part of the monsoon will determine the yields.

(This article was published on July 4, 2014)
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