Crop planting in the beginning of July was 26% lower than that a year ago, but the gap has now reduced to 6.4%. With continued heavy showers forecast for the next two weeks, total planting of crops is likely to reach the level in the corresponding period last year.
The lag in sowing as compared with 2018 is also because of the delayed onset of monsoon. This year, monsoon hit Kerala coast a week later than its normal onset date of June 1. Last year it was three days early.
Agriculture commissioner SK Malhotra told ET that sowing has been steady since July, when the monsoon regained the steam it had lost in June when the rainfall deficit was 33%.
“We will see more improvement in sowing. There is little deficit in paddy and pulses sowing, which will be recovered by the first week of August. Sowing has gained pace in all the states,” he said.
According to Malhotra, the late start in sowing will not impact overall foodgrain production. “Foodgrains production is likely to be similar to last year. We don’t see any shortfall as of now. The way monsoon is progressing, we expect normal coverage of crop area. As far as pulses are concerned, we are comfortable,” he said.
Crop sowing data shows that the total area under cultivation has touched 68.9 million ha compared with 73.6 million ha last year. The overall average area under summer planting is about 106.3 million ha.
The shortfall is mostly in paddy and pulses. While paddy covers 18.5 million ha, as against last year’s 19.7 million ha, area under pulses is down by about 1.8 million ha from last year to 8.3 million ha.
“The cyclonic rains in Gujarat and parts of Maharashtra last month have played a role in rise in cotton area. Farmers sowed cotton during those rains. The plant survived on sporadic rains thereafter. The increase is also because farmers in Gujarat and Maharashtra have sown the banned HTbt cotton which can thrive in less water,” said another agriculture department official who didn’t want to be named.
Meanwhile, data from the Central Water Commission shows that the water level in the country’s 100 main reservoirs is 25% of the total live water storage capacity. Last year this time, it was at 39%.
“Rains have started late. Now that the rainfall is gathering steam, reservoirs will start getting filled. We expect an improvement in the status when the next update come on Thursday,” said a senior official of Central Water Commission.