Deficit in monsoon has hit the sowing of kharif food crops such as paddy, pulses and oilseeds, triggering concerns in several quarters.

However, the acreage under cash crops such as cotton and sugarcane has seen an increase, with a pick-up in sowing of the fibre crop in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra last week.

The progress of the monsoon, after a delayed start, has not been satisfactory, though the India Metrological Department (IMD) has predicted normal rains for the year. The country as a whole has experienced monsoon deficit of 25 per cent so far. The actual rainfall till June 28 stood at 111 mm against the normal of 147.9 mm with 24 of the 36 metrological subdivisions reporting scanty or deficit rains.

The acreage under paddy is down 35 per cent at 30.72 lakh hectares so far, against last year’s 41.51 lakh ha for the period.

The area under total pulses is also down by over a third with all major growing States reporting a lower area.

“We were expecting a 3-5 per cent increase in oilseed acreage this year as prices were good last year. However, with the delay in rains the acreage is unlikely to expand and the yields may be impacted,” said Mr B. V. Mehta, President, Solvent Extractors Association of India.

The oilseed acreage is down by 17 per cent so far, with key producing States such as Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra reporting lower area. Acreage under groundnut is down by over half at 3.18 lakh ha against 6.39 lakh ha in the corresponding period last year. However, the area under soya bean is marginally up at 6.29 lakh ha against last year’s 4.58 lakh ha. Other oilseeds like sunflower and sesamum have also reported a drop in area.

Interestingly, the cotton acreage has gone up by 2.3 lakh ha at 31.37 lakh ha so far. “The area is picking up and the delay in rains is not much of a concern.

However, there would be decline in acreage of about 10 per cent as farmers are switching to more lucrative crops like guar in North India” said Dr K. R. Kranthi, Director, Central Institute of Cotton Research, Nagpur. Last year, the cotton acreage registered an all-time high of 121 lakh ha.

vishwa@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on June 29, 2012)
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