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All you wanted to know about kharif and rabi

NALINAKANTHI V | Updated on January 17, 2018 Published on August 22, 2016

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After a weak start in June this year, the southwest monsoon is expected to close on a positive note. Thanks to the late pick up in rains, the cumulative rainfall for the season has been near normal at 99 per cent of the long period average. Adequate rainfall this year has resulted in better sowing during the ongoing Kharif season. Higher water storage at leading reservoirs due to southwest monsoon will have a positive rub-off on the ensuing Rabi season as well. What are these two seasons and why are they important for India?

What is it?

In India, about two thirds of the land is rain fed and thus sowing and cultivation happens primarily during the two monsoon spells — Southwest and Northeast monsoon. Of them, southwest monsoon is the principal rainfall season as India gets most of its rainfall during the June-September period.

Crops that are sown during the southwest monsoon season are called kharif or monsoon crops. These crops are sown at the beginning of the season around end May to early June and are harvested post the monsoon rains beginning October. Rice, maize, pulses such as urad, moong dal and millets are among the key kharif crops.

Those that are sown around the Northwest monsoon season, which begins by October are called rabi or winter crops. These crops are sown at the onset of winter which coincides with the northeast monsoon. The harvest for these crops happens typically during April and May, during the summer season.

Wheat which is the staple grain for people in the Northern parts of the country is among the key rabi crops. Vegetables such as potato, tomato and onion are also cultivated post the winter onset and are harvested in summer.

Why is it important?

Rice and wheat being country’s staple crops, a good kharif and rabi harvest is critical to the country’s food security. Rice and wheat accounted for 40 per cent and 37 per cent of the country’s food grain production of 257 million tonnes in 2014-15 (second advanced estimate). Good monsoon rainfall, particularly during the southwest monsoon, is critical to the sowing and harvest of these crops.

Besides a large domestic market, India is also the largest exporter of rice. The country raced ahead of Thailand with export of 10.23 million tonnes in 2015, making it the top rice exporter in the world. Likewise, India also exports a significant portion of wheat produce; however the exports over the last two years took a beating, thanks to surplus production in Australia.

Why should I care?

A good kharif and rabi season is very critical to ensure food availability to feed the country’s growing population. Also, a weak monsoon and lower crop output may cause the government to increase minimum support prices to farmers, as a measure of support to the larger farming community. This in turn can translate into higher market price.

This means that you may have to shell out more as your monthly food bill. On the other side, if you are an investor in agri stocks — be it inputs or commodities, it may be important to keep a close tab on the progression of rabi and kharif season.

The bottomline

A robust rabi and kharif season can bring cheer not just to farmers and consumers, but also to investors in the agri space.

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Published on August 22, 2016

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