Scattered light rain across northern States will give a fillip to planting of wheat, which has been delayed by about a week this year. Western disturbance has led to few spells of light rain across northern States in the past couple of days.

“The rains will help wheat sowing,” said Indu Sharma, Director of the Karnal-based Directorate of Wheat Research. Sowing of wheat has already commenced in many States and the total area covered till November 30, stood at 157.8 lakh hectares (lh), a little over half the projected area of 290 lh. The crop is currently in seedling and tillering stages.

India had planted wheat on 290 lh last year and harvested a record high of 93.9 million tonnes. Wheat acreage till date is lower by 4.6 lh over the corresponding period last year.

States such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab have reported higher acreage, while in Haryana, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Uttarakhand, the area covered so far is lower than last year.

The late arrival of monsoon, which pushed back kharif harvest, has delayed wheat sowing by about a week. “Sowing will go on till January 15 as farmers have to clear the sugarcane fields to plant wheat. However, the cold spells that are crucial for a better harvest, should continue till March,” Sharma said.

MSP effect

Besides, an early announcement of the minimum support price (MSP) for wheat could also have an effect on the acreage. The Commission on Agriculture Costs and Prices had recommended a freeze on wheat MSP at last year’s level of Rs 1,285 a quintal, while the Agriculture Ministry was in favour of a hike considering that cultivation costs have gone up.

On Friday, the Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar assured the Parliament that MSP for wheat would be announced over the next 10-15 days, agency reports said. The CACP has been asked by the Ministry to review the MSP calculations and include the rise in cost of fertilisers and diesel in order to protect the farmers’ interest.

Oilseed crop

Total oilseed acreage is marginally higher than last year at 66.84 lh on higher coverage of rapeseed-mustard, the main rabi oilseed crop. Mustard has been planted on 57.1 lh (56.42 lh).

States such as Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Assam and Madhya Pradesh have reported a higher oilseed area. The rabi groundnut acreage stood at 2.5 lh, while sunflower was at 3.39 lh and safflower at 1.15 lh.

vishwanath.kulkarni@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on November 30, 2012)
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