Areas under various summer-sown crops were just 1% higher than a year before until Friday, almost bridging a 63% year-on-year lead recorded up to July 17, according to the latest agriculture ministry data. The coverage of oilseeds recorded a fall — albeit marginal — for the first time this season, having risen by 1.8% until August 14 from a year earlier.
This is partly due to the fact that after initial dry spells in 2014, farmers ramped up sowing activity significantly from mid-July due to a pick-up in monsoon showers.
The seasonal rainfall so far has dropped from the benchmark long-period average (LPA) by 9%, having worsened from a 5% deficit recorded by the end of July. 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 third straight week through August 20.
In a research report this week, Crisil said four states (Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh) and five crops (jowar, soyabean, tur, maize and cotton) are likely to be hit the hardest in case the country receives deficient monsoon rains for a second straight year in 2015, as has been forecast by the India Meteorological Department (IMD). The four states that are feared to suffer the most this season make up for 34% of the country’s grain output, while jowar, soyabean, tur and maize account for 26% of the total grain and oilseed production. Even a state like Punjab, where almost all farm land is irrigated, is facing pressure after a huge deficit in rainfall last year.
The government has maintained that it is taking a series of steps to contain any damaging impact of erratic weather — the latest being the santion of an additional Rs 300 crore earlier this month towards various subsidies to save crops in drought-prone areas.
The area under paddy — the most important summer-sown crop — rose just 0.5% until Friday from a year earlier. Up to August 14, the paddy coverage was as high as 4.3% from a year earlier. Moreover, the paddy crop has been severaly damaged due to floods in many parts of the biggest producing state of West Bengal.
Areas under pulses, coarse cereals and cane were up 10.1%, 3.3% and 3.5%, respectively, until August 21 from a year earlier. Cotton, however, has witnessed a 7.2% drop in acreage.
The IMD 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.
Not just the quantum, even the geographical spread of monsoon doesn’t seem to be good. According to the IMD, only 20 of the country’s 36 weather sub-divisions have witnessed normal showers so far. As many as 13 sub-divisions have received deficient rainfall, while 3 have seen excess shower.