Despite monsoon picking up, crop area down 9.5%

Economy


NEW DELHI: With the monsoon picking up momentum in the past five days and covering half the country, the area under cultivation for summer crops has slightly improved from what it was last week. The latest crop data from agriculture department shows a decline of 9.5% in the total crop area from the yearago figure. So far, farmers have sown across 14.66 million hectares, around 13.8% of the total area that goes under cultivation in the kharif season. Last year, more than 16.2 million hectares were sown during this period. “A delayed and deficient monsoon so far has slowed down sowing activities. However, there is a slight improvement from a week before, when the shortfall was 12.5%. The deficit will further narrow down in the coming week, with rains covering more crop producing areas of central India, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Gujarat,” said a senior agriculture department official.

The rainfall deficit has come down to 35% from around 42% last week. However, the main cause of worry is that 75% of the country has received deficient rains, with only 10% receiving normal and 4% of the total area getting wetter than normal. The monsoon, which started with a week’s delay on June 8, has been patchy so far. It became active only a week ago, after being stuck in the southern peninsula since onset.

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“The next 10 days will be crucial for crops. If the monsoon spreads to other parts and reaches the soya bean and cotton producing parched lands of Vidarbha, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, sowing activities will pick up pace,” said the official. The status of water storage in 91 main reservoirs is not very encouraging. The Central Water Commission (CWC) said that the storage was only 16% of the total storage capacity – down 2% from a year ago. “The condition in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Jharkhand and Karnataka is extremely critical,” a CWC official said on condition of anonymity. “The water deficiency in reservoirs located in these states is in the range of 27-84% as compared by last 10 years’ average. Since most parts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat are already facing drought-like conditions, rains are crucial for agriculture.” The shortfall in the crop area is mainly in pulses while the pace of sowing paddy, sugarcane, oilseeds and coarse cereals has caught up with that last year. The output of pulses will be critical after lower production of lentils last year.



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