A crucial week ahead for kharif crops

Vishwanath Kulkarni New Delhi | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on July 15, 2012







Rain in the next few weeks will be crucial in determining the kharif crop output, though it is too early to arrive at any conclusion. Rains in July have always been a defining feature for drought in the country.

While sowing of kharif crops has picked up on improved rains over the past 10 days, it is yet to ease concerns over the impact on growth in agriculture.


The South-West monsoon, the lifeline of the country’s agriculture, arrived late by five days and its subsequent progress has been sluggish, resulting in a deficit of 23 per cent so far.

Though the entire country was covered by the monsoon four days in advance, the deficit has delayed sowing of key crops such as rice, pulses, coarse cereals and oilseeds. However, the planting of cash crops such as sugarcane, cotton and jute has largely been normal .

In the past 10 days, the actual rainfall has been one per cent higher compared with the normal of 63.4 mm, with large parts of the country ranging from Gujarat across Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Orissa receiving good showers, resulting in a pick up of kharif planting.

The India Metrological Department has forecast that dry conditions will prevail this week, considered crucial for the kharif crops. But it depends on the actual rainfall that may occur during the period. The weather body has predicted that El Nino, which creates drought-like conditions in India, may emerge sometime towards the end of August, by which time sowing should be complete.

“Groundnut sowing has picked up in the past few days and is going on at a brisk pace in Saurashtra and Rajasthan,” says Mr B.V. Mehta, President, Solvent Extractors Association of India.

Groundnut acreage is set to gain over the next few weeks, says Mr Mehta. On the impact that the delay in monsoon could have on yields, he said, “It is early to jump to any conclusion. The last showers that come sometime in September are crucial in deciding the yields”.

Key groundnut growing States of Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have so far seen a dip in acreage due to scanty rains. Any further delay in rain could prompt growers to switch over to short duration varieties, said Mr Mehta, clarifying that he hasn’t seen such a trend so far.

In the case of soyabean, the sowing is almost 70 per cent complete, says Mr Rajesh Agrawal, spokesperson for Soyabean Processors Association of India.

“Last year, the soyabean acreage was 103 lakh hectares and we expect it to go up by 5 per cent this year as the oilseed has offered better returns,” he says.

Fears of tight global supplies, on dry conditions affecting US output, is driving prices – a trend that may prompt more farmers to plant soyabean here. “Rains in the next week will be crucial for soyabean,” Mr Agrawal said, adding that planting may go on till July 20-25. Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are expected to see an increase in acreage.

Planting of rice, the key kharif cereal, has not only been delayed by scanty rains, but has also been affected by poor water storage levels and erratic power supply in the irrigated tracts of northern India. Paddy acreage lags by 5 lakh hectares in Uttar Pradesh, where farmers have planted more of sugarcane this year. Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Odisha and Punjab have also witnessed a shortfall in acreage over last year. Adequate rice stockpiles are unlikely to trigger any concerns on availability, while acreage is expected to see a rise in coming weeks.

Erratic rain

The pulses scenario, at present, looks bleak, with erratic rain affecting sowing in Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. “Planting of tur has taken place in about a third of the normal area of 5 lakh hectares,” says Mr Basavaraj Ingin, President, State Tur Growers Association in Gulbarga, Karnataka.

The absence of supporting or follow-up rains has spelt trouble for the crop that has germinated. “We have almost lost hope,” Mr Ingin says, adding that farmers, as a last resort, are looking to plant coarse cereals like minor millets if rains permit.

Parts of North Karnataka and adjoining Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra did not receive adequate winter rains last year, which has compounded the farmers’ woes in the region.

The sowing of coarse cereals such as jowar, bajra and ragi has been hit in States like Maharashtra, Karnataka and Rajasthan.

However, cash crops such as cotton and sugarcane have witnessed a rise in acreage. Cotton acreage has increased in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, while in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan it has dipped as farmers have shifted to more lucrative crops such as guar.

Despite payment delays, farmers in Uttar Pradesh have planted sugarcane in an additional area of 2 lakh hectares, about 9 per cent more than last year.

Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Gujarat have also seen a rise in cane area.

Despite higher cane acreage, the Indian Sugar Mills Association has forecast a dip in sugar output of 1 million tonnes at 25 million tonnes for 2012-13 on account of inadequate rains affecting yields and recovery in Maharashtra and Karnataka.

Published on July 15, 2012
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