While the monsoon deficit has shrunk, worries still loom large on the agriculture front.

Rainfall has improved over the past 10 days helping in the planting of paddy, groundnut and soyabean, the Agriculture Minister, Mr Sharad Pawar, said on Thursday.

Deficit down

The rain deficit has come down to 23 per cent from 31 per cent 10 days ago, with Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh receiving rains in the past few days.

But the “situation is worrisome” in Karnataka and parts of Maharashtra — especially Madhya Maharashtra and Marathawada, Mr Pawar said. These States, which got scanty winter rain last year, have so far had a deficit monsoon.

“There is a cause for concern about coarse cereals production and drinking water supply in these two States,” Mr Pawar added.

Latest data from the India Metrological Department show that north interior Karnataka, which is facing a drought-like situation, had 47 per cent rain deficit, while south interior Karnataka had a shortfall of over 51 per cent. In Madhya Maharashtra and Marathawada, the deficit is 33 per cent and 36 per cent, respectively.

Sowing affected

Poor rain has affected sowing of jowar, bajra, maize and millets, while planting of paddy has picked up and should not cause worry, Mr Pawar said.

Rains in the past two days in Saurashtra and Madhya Pradesh should help the sowing of oilseeds such as groundnut and soyabean.

Planting of cash crops such as cotton and sugarcane has also been good, the Agriculture Minister said.

Earlier, the IMD Director-General, Dr L.S. Rathore, said the monsoon covered the entire country on Wednesday but the deficit of 23 per cent was likely to remain till the end of this week.

Dr Rathore said that El Nino, a warmer condition in Pacific Ocean that affects rainfall in countries such as India, may set in some time in August, by which time kharif sowing would be complete.