Thanks to the early onset of the monsoon this year, sowing of kharif crops started on a brisk note. Areas sown of key crops except pulses have so far been higher than the level at the same time last year, with the overall sowing 9% higher (see chart). Of course, these are still very early days — by this time less than 15% of the sowing is usually done — but analysts said unless key paddy-growing areas witness a sustained rain deficit over the next few weeks, the kharif output would likely be robust. The decline in sowing of pulses — less than in the year-ago period by a third — is because farmers in states like Maharashtra have shifted to cotton given the low price realisation in the last season for key pulse varieties like arhar. Because of normal rainfall last year, the country’s foodgrain production in the 2016-17 crop year (July-June) is estimated to reach an all-time record of 273.38 million tonnes (mt), which is 8.7% more than the previous year. Gross value added in the farm and allied sector grew an impressive 4.9% in 2016-17, against just 0.7% in the previous year, thanks to a bumper harvest after two straight years of drought.
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Earlier this week, the Centre approved increases in the minimum support price (MSP) in the range of 5-8% for the 2017-18 kharif crop. Experts say that with India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicting normal monsoon rainfall this season (June-September), sowing activity is expected to pick up pace in the next couple of weeks when the monsoon covers the entire the country. Currently, however, there are some concerns over the deficient rains in central India and the northeast. The IMD in its second long-range forecast stated that quantitatively the monsoon season rainfall for the country as whole is likely to be 98% of the benchmark long period average (LPA), with a model error of ± 4%.
“Favourable conditions are likely to develop for further advance of the southwest monsoon into parts of Madhya Maharashtra, Marathwada, Vidarbha, south Gujarat, east Madhya Pradesh, remaining parts of Bihar and west Madhya Pradesh and east Uttar Pradesh during next three to four days,” IMD said on Friday. Due to two consecutive years of deficient monsoons (2014 and 2015), foodgrain production went down to 252 mt in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 crop years from 265 mt reported in 2013-14.