The area under various kharif crops rose 3.2% until Friday from a year before, aided by plentiful showers in June and comfortable water reserves for most part of this monsoon season. However, the crop coverage narrowed a lead over last year from as much as 63% until July 17, partly due to the fact that after initial dry spells in 2014, farmers started sowing in a big way from mid-July.
Monsoon showers, having dropped from the benchmark long-period average (LPA) by as much as 5% at the end of July, widened the deficit further to 9% until Friday.
The slowdown in the intensity of monsoon rains, particularly since early July, has resulted in the country’s water reserves staying lower than a year earlier for a second straight week through August 13. However, given that the crop coverage is still higher than a year before and the government is taking a series of steps to contain any damaging impact of erratic weather — the latest being the sanction of an additional Rs 300 crore this week towards various subsidies to save crops in drought-prone areas — analysts believe the risks to crops are much lower than what was expected in June.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley also said on Friday the geographical spread of monsoon has been good, hinting that risks to crops are minimal.
The area under paddy–the most important summer-sown crop–rose 4.3% until Friday from a year earlier. Areas under pulses and coarse cereals surged 11.6% and 5.5%, respectively, up to Friday from a year earlier, while those under oilseeds rose 1.8% over last year. Barring cotton, which witnessed a 7% drop in acreage, planting of all other major crops improved from a year before.
The India Meteorological Department this month retained its earlier forecast of a deficient monsoon season for 2015, with rainfall at 88% of the LPA. It predicted rainfall to be 84% of the benchmark average in the second half of the June-September season, compared with the actual showers of 95% of the LPA in the first two months of the season.
According to the IMD, only 15 of the country’s 36 weather sub-divisions have witnessed normal showers so far. As many as 16 sub-divisions have received deficient rainfall, while 5 have seen excess shower.
“Near-normal rainfall activity is likely over central and northwest India during next 3-4 days. Subsequently, rainfall would increase considerably along the foot hills of Himalayas, northeastern states & adjoining east India and Peninsula India,” the IMD had said on Thursday.