With the start of withdrawal of the South-West monsoon from parts of western Rajasthan, doubts are being raised with regard to crop productivity and the possible impact on the Rabi season even if Kharif acreage is just about two per cent higher vis-à-vis last year.

The four-month long South-West monsoon, which provides 75 per cent of India’s annual rainfall and waters more than half of India’s crop land, has recorded a 13 per cent shortfall between June 1 and September 4, according to the data provided by the India Meteorological Department (IMD).

“Various areas in central, southern and western India are currently facing water stress. Rain is required and needs to be well distributed if sown crops are to be saved,” said a senior Agricultural Ministry official.

The amount of rainfall recorded during the period is 645.7 millimetres (mm) against a normal of 742.5 mm due to a strong El Nino. The peninsula has registered a 22 per cent shortfall, while central and north-west India has had deficiencies of 17 per cent and 13 per cent, respectively.

Driest year

The IMD had predicted precipitation at 88 per cent of the Long Period Average of 89 cm this year. However, a 16 per cent and 22 per cent deficit in July and August, which account for a bulk of monsoon rainfall, threaten to make this the driest year since 2009 and a second straight drought year.

Out of 36 sub-divisions, 18 have received deficient rainfall this year and only two have recorded an excess. The situation is most dire in Marathwada and central Maharashtra, north interior Karnataka, Kerala, Goa and the Konkan coast, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

“An early withdrawal is not an issue since the monsoon arrived 15 days early, particularly in north-west India. That’s why there is no adverse effect on area. But this long dry spell and overall deficiency is a matter of serious concern and will impact productivity,” said Ramesh Chand, Director, National Institute of Agricultural Economics and Policy Research.

Rain-fed crops such as pulses, coarse cereals and oilseeds were particularly at risk, said Chand, adding that rice was not likely to be hit due to cultivation in areas which either received sufficient rain or were well irrigated.

Water storage levels

Importantly, water levels across 91 major reservoirs have also dipped by 16 per cent below the normal and a poor monsoon will affect replenishment – particularly across Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Kerala, among others.

“September rains crucial since moisture levels in the soil need to be higher not just for good yield with regard to the Kharif crop but also for the Rabi season which accounts for a bulk of pulses production,” said Pravin Dongre, Chairman, Indian Pulses and Grains Association.