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Monsoon covers entire India, sowing deficit narrows

FE Bureau

The south-west monsoon showers covered the entire country on Friday after a four-day delay from the normal schedule, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said. However, the good spell of rains in the first two weeks of July has improved the water reservoir level, which is expected to accelerate the sowing of kharif crops and narrow a gap in acreage vis-a-vis the corresponding period of last year.
The area under all kharif crops has been by down only 7% year-on-year as of July 19, having improved from a 27% fall until a fortnight ago, showed the latest agriculture ministry data. Barring cotton, where the area is up 4% y-o-y, the sowing of all other crops are still lower from a year before.

After witnessing the worst rainfall deficiency in five years in June, monsoon showers pick-ed up pace, touching over 97% of the long period average since July 1, IMD data showed Friday.

"Under the influence of shear zone and strong winds at lower levels over southern parts of west coast, active to vigorous monsoon conditions with widespread rainfall with heavy to very heavy at a few places and extremely heavy falls at isolated places are very likely to occur over Kerala and coastal and south interior Karnataka mainly during July 19-22," IMD said. The weather bureau has predicted 95% and 99% monsoon rainfall in July and August, respectively.

"There will be continuous improvement in sowing area and the planting window is still open. There has been no concern reported from any state, so far," a government official said. Asked about prospect of pulses production, he said though the overall sowing is down, the area in Rajasthan, the largest producer, is at same level of last year. The state may see some improvement in pulses area this year when sowing finally ends." Rajasthan has received 18% below average rains, so far.

Last year, production of tur, a kharif crop, declined to 3.5 million tonne from 4.3 million tonne in 2017-18 and this resulted in 13-15% jump in its retail price in the past 6 months. The consumer affairs ministry data showed average tur dal prices in the rage of Rs 81-87/kg now from Rs 72-77/kg in mid-February.

According to Trilochan Mohapatra, director general of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), farmers will continue planting paddy, the main kharif crop, until August-end. The current shortfall in sowing area would also be covered, he had said. The area under paddy was down by 9% at 13.96 million hectare as on July 19. He had said any shortfall in grains production in deficient area will be offset by higher yield in regions where there is normal or excess rainfall.

Among the coarse grains, the area under maize is at 5.5 million hectare, little changed from last year. Poultry industry officials are pinning hopes on higher area of maize in Haryana after the state launched an incentive scheme to shift non-basmati crop towards the coarse grain.

The area under maize in Madhya Pradesh, a leading producer, is also at a record high of 12.84 lakh hectares, as farmers expect the Bhavantar scheme to be announced for the crop. Under this scheme last year, the state paid Rs 250/quintal to each registered farmer who sold their crop in mandis as market rates were lower than the minimum support price.