Bearish prices in oilseeds have discouraged farmers from increasing groundnut and soyabean cultivation in the current kharif season so far even though the area under other crops showed a positive trend, sowing data released by the Agriculture Ministry indicated on Friday.

The area under oilseeds came down to 104 lakh hectares (ha) as compared to 115 lakh ha in the corresponding week of the previous year on account of a significant drop in acreage under soyabean and groundnut in most States where they are cultivated.

The area under soyabean came down to 73 lakh ha this week from 83 lakh ha in the same period last year. The sowing area of groundnut is also down by 2 lakh ha to 24 lakh ha compared with the year-ago period.

According to BV Mehta, Executive Director of the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India (SEAI), farmers are discouraged from growing oilseeds because of the poor prices they attract. “The government should slap higher customs duty on edible oil imports and should also leave the pricing of oilseeds to market forces,” he said. An SEAI release issued on Friday showed that there was a 15 per cent increase in vegetable oil imports in June this year to 1,344,866 tonnes, as compared 1,169,456 tonnes in June 2016.

Total cultivation area up The total area under kharif cultivation, on the other side, increased to 563 lakh ha, which is 42 lakh ha more than last year, thanks to an impressive increase in acreage under pulses, coarse cereals and cotton, the Ministry release said.

While the acreage under pulses was 74.61 lakh ha, against the previous year’s 60.28 lakh ha, coarse cereals have so far been sown on 113 lakh ha as compared to 99 lakh ha in the corresponding period last year.

The area under cotton cultivation is an impressive 91 lakh ha, which is 23 per cent more than the previous year’s 74 lakh ha.

The increase in sown area in pulses was particularly reported from Rajasthan (an additional 18 lakh ha) and Madhya Pradesh (8.27 lakh ha), while coarse cereals in Rajasthan stood at 17.4 lakh ha and Madhya Pradesh at 2.63 lakh ha.

The increase in cotton cultivation is reported from across all the major cotton-growing States of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Haryana.

Farmers in Telangana, too, have shown a strong preference for cotton over other crops.

The total area under rice so far is 125.77 lakh ha, which is marginally higher than the 120 lakh ha this period last year.

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