The sowing areas under all crops in current kharif season has crossed halfway mark, reaching at 592.11 lakh hectares (lh) as of Friday, against 591.30 lh in the corresponding period last year. After trailing from year-ago level, the acreage has increased for the first time this season mainly due to significant improvement in areas under soyabean, moong, cotton and bajra in last 2-3 weeks while gap in paddy areas has also narrowed down.

Deficient rains

“Paddy is still a concern as overall areas have been lagging behind as rainfall was lagging in Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha, some of the key producers of the cereal. There may be some downfall in area this year as in many places farmers are waiting for rains and have not even started sowing whereas in some other pockets though the nursery is ready, they are yet to go for transplanting,” an official said.

The government has fixed the rice output target at 112 million tonnes (mt) this season as against 111.04 mt in kharif 2021-22.

Sowing in paddy areas has slightly improved—the decline was 24 per cent until July 8, but now it is 17 per cent at 128.50 lh as of July 15 against 155.53 lh in the corresponding period in 2021. The paddy acreage was at 174.44 lh as of July 15, 2020.

While the area in Uttar Pradesh was higher until last week, it has now declined by over 8 lh. Among other major paddy growers, Chhattisgarh has reported a shortfall of over 3 lh, Odisha nearly 4 lh, Madhya Pradesh nearly 3 lh, Telangana and Punjab about 2 lh, each. Bihar and Jharkhand together have a shortfall of 4.6 lh, so far.

Though country as a whole has received 14 per cent above normal rainfall between June 1 and July 15 as much as 17 per cent of the country are parched, so far.

Uttar Pradesh has received 65 per cent below normal rains so far and almost all districts have recorded deficient rainfall. Out of 42 districts in east UP, only Varanasi has got normal rainfall. Similarly in western UP, out of 33 districts only Agra, Hapur and Firozabad have received normal rainfall, so far.

The sowing in West Bengal, largest paddy grower, is expected to pick up in next one month, depending on rainfall as major growing districts like Birbhum, Bardhaman, Bankura, East Mednipur and Mursidabad are rainfall deficient. The State has received 24 per cent deficient rains, so far while the overall kharif acreage at 9.42 lh is a notch below last year’s 10 lh.

Pulses acreage up

Total acreage under all pulses has increased 9 per cent at 72.66 lh from 66.69 lh in which moong has jumped 27.4 per cent to 20.19 lh and urad 15.2 per cent to 18.06 lh. But arhar areas have declined 18.3 per cent to 25.81 lh mainly due to fall in Telangana, Karnataka and Maharashtra.

Cotton acreage has reached 102.8 lh until Friday, which is 6.4 per cent higher from 96.58 lh in the year-ago period. Both Gujarat and Maharashtra have reported higher areas while farmers have planted less in Telangana, according to weekly update released by the Agriculture Ministry on Friday.

Oilseeds sowing, too has increased to 134.04 lh from 124.83 lh, up by 7.4 per cent in which soyabean is reported to have increased 10 per cent to 99.35 lh, but groundnut has slipped by 2.8 per cent to 28.89 lh. As heavy rains have been reported in Gujarat, the main grower of groundnut, farmers will start increasing the sowing as soon as water logging in fields gets cleared, officials said, highlighting that nearly five-times increase (in groundnut) has been noticed in past one week in the State.

Acreage of coarse cereals has increased 7.9 per cent to 93.91 lh from 87.06 lh. While bajra has moved up by 65 per cent to 34.46 lh, maize sowing dipped 12 per cent to 49.90 lh.

“Last one week was good for the planting as there was an increase of nearly 30 per cent while the total sown area is now 55 per cent of normal kharif planting of 1,085 lh. We are expecting the acreage to cross 80 per cent of normal area in next fortnight,” said an official. However, he said States to be vigilant on climate change impact as heavy downpour for a few days may lead to flooding as seen in Gujarat.