Central India rain deficit dips to 6%, thanks to prolonged showers

Written by fe Bureau | Updated: Aug 9 2014, 08:13am hrs
Rainfall deficit in central India, which was facing wide-scale dry spells as late as July 25, narrowed to 6% until Friday after prolonged spells of showers helping bridge the overall deficiency to 17% of the benchmark average this season, showed data by IMD. Overall rainfall in the country was 19% higher than normal over the past week, which not just drove up sowing as well as water reserve levels, but also enhanced the risk of floods in many parts, including Madhya Pradesh and Odisha.

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Rains lashed key oilseed-producing regions in central India, including Madhya Pradesh, and paddy-growing Odisha and parts of the north-western regions. Consequently, areas under summer crops rose to 80.33 million hectares until Friday, still down 8.9% from a year before but much higher than 14% until last week and 27% up to July 25.

Water reserve levels, too, rose to 88.74 billion cubic metres until Thursday, 16.3% higher than the normal average of 76.31 billion cubic metres, although it was still down 17.8% from a year earlier.

According to Ashok Gulati, former chairman of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, the spread of rains over the next two months is crucial for assessing the impact on kharif crops. The government on Thursday announced up to 50% subsidy on diesel as well as seed supplies to farmers in areas where the deficit was more than 50% until July 15. Regions that will declared drought-hit would also be eligible for the subsidy and a special package of R35,000 per hectare would be offered for rejuvenation of horticultural crops in these areas.

IMD has forecast below-normal monsoon showers for 2014, at 93% of the benchmark long-period average. Already, 47% of areas in India have received normal monsoon showers, 48% have witnessed deficit rainfall while only 5% have seen scanty rainfall.

While the deficit in Marathwada (58%), Punjab (58%), Telangana ( 49%), western Uttar Pradesh (45%) and coastal Andhra Pradesh (37%) still worries the government, heavy showers in some other parts, especially in central India, witnessed floods, damaging oilseed and paddy crops over thousands of hectares.

Earlier last month, the agriculture ministry said kharif grain production could be "far below" than a year before, but later it announced an ambitious target of grain output for the entire crop year through June 2014 at 261 million tonne, just 3.4 million tonne lower than the record harvest in 2013-14. Of the record output in 2013-14, kharif crops accounted for 49%, or 129.37 million tonne.

As rains drenched parts of West Bengal and Odisha, paddy planting got a boost, with areas under the crop rising to 26.73 million hectares, down 2.1% from a year before but much better than the 7% deficit witnessed until last week. However, a 21% drop in areas under coarse cereals, 15% in pulses and 12% in oilseeds are still points for concern for policy-makers, although sowing of these crops has improved over the past two weeks.