With the sowing data released by the Ministry of Agriculture last week, which showed a doubling of the area sown, the market appears to be anticipating a bumper crop. But, it is too early to say how the season will fare.
While there is an increase of 220 per cent in the area under pulses compared to last year, it accounts for only 16 per cent of the normal area (as recorded in the past five years) under pulses in the kharif season. Similarly, in the case of oilseeds, too, while there is a whopping 500 per cent jump in area sown, of the normal area for the full season, only 46 per cent has been covered. In rice, while the area sown is up 35 per cent over the same period last year, it accounts for only 10 per cent of the normal area in kharif.
Kharif sowing at 40% in Maharashtra
Until at least a third of the area is covered, one can’t guess the quantum of output. The reason why the area sown is up year-on-year is that last year, the monsoon had a late start and was deficient during June — to the extent of 30 per cent of LPA (Long Period Average).
“The sowing has been good this kharif season because reservoirs were full following last year’s rains; also, the onset of the monsoon was on time and it has been raining regularly since…so no encumbrances so far in sowing,” said Jatin Singh, founder and MD, Skymet Weather Services.
A BusinessLine analysis shows that even when the area sown is higher by mid-season in normal monsoon years, the total area under crops towards the end of the season is not necessarily higher over the previous year or the average of the last five years.
A case in point is the year 2016-17. The year had normal monsoon rains of 97 per cent of LPA. By mid-July, about 66 per cent of the normal area under pulses in kharif was covered. Oilseeds, cotton and coarse cereals, too, saw good area covered by mid-July. However, by the end of September, the total area sown under different crops was higher by only 2-3 per cent, y-o-y. This is despite 2015-16 being a deficient monsoon year. Pulses were an exception (area increase by 29 per cent), given that a large number of farmers in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan took to them. The output in 2016-17 kharif was, in fact, higher than the percentage increase in sown area, implying improvement in yield.
That said, one can’t be sure if the current kharif season will end with higher output like 2016-17 season.
“As things stand now, I don’t see any spoilers in the monsoon; it could end up anywhere between normal and above normal this year,” said Skymet’s Singh. This is good news, but, if there is a locust/pest attack or heavy showers during the end of the monsoon, it may impact the yield and result in lower output.
Swarms of locusts have been spotted in Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, risking standing crops including sugarcane. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has asked India to be on a high alert over the next four weeks.
The situation update released by the FAO on June 27 noted that swarms and adult groups were present in Rajasthan and infestations were also spotted in parts of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. At least one small group of immature adults moved north in Utter Pradesh on June 27 during strong winds, reaching the northern districts of Kushingar and Sidharth Nagar, said the report.