The pulse of a weak monsoon

Jun 16 2014, 02:36 IST
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SummaryWith the kharif pulse production already quite low, poor rainfall could compound shortage. India has to prepare in the short-term by stepping up procurement and in the long-term with R&D for high yield varieties

With the kharif pulse production already quite low, poor rainfall could compound shortage. India has to prepare in the short-term by stepping up procurement and in the long-term with R&D for high yield varieties

The predictions of below-normal rainfall seem to have become a major concern for the growth of agricultural sector in general and kharif crops in particular in 2014. Agriculture is an important sectoral constraint of growth. Even a small shortfall in agricultural production can cause serious distortion in the economic growth of the country.

Recently, the India Meteorological Department has lowered its forecast for the monsoon to 93% from the

95% estimated earlier. It has reported that most parts of the country, except north-east could receive less than normal rainfall. The rains in

Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, eastern Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Odisha and Chhattisgarh are expected to be 94% of the long-period average (LPA). These areas grow most of the kharif pulses, oilseeds, cotton and coarse cereals.

The possible negative impact on production of pulses and oilseeds is a serious concern since the country regularly depends on imports to bridge the demand supply gap. Pulses are still a major and cheaper source of protein for sizeable poor who cannot afford expensive proteins like meat, milk and poultry.

India is the largest producer and consumer of pulses in the world. It grows a large variety of pulses. In rabi season, chickpea (gram) and lentils (massar) are important crops while pigeon pea (arhar), green gram (moong) and blackgram (urad) are major crops of kharif season.

Kharif pulses are a weak component of pulse economy in India. The production of these crops grew at a slow rate due to declining acreage and slow improvement in productivity. These are largely cultivated under rainfed conditions with minimum use of inputs. At times, they do not receive protective irrigation. Among pulse crops, kharif pulses are at a great disadvantage in terms of yield rates. The yield level of arhar, moong and urad is much below gram and lentils.

Kharif pulses constituted around 31% of total pulse production in India in 2012-13. The share of arhar, moong and urad in total kharif pulse production was 50.18%, 23.18% and 31.75%, respectively. The productivity of kharif pulses was 569 kg/hectare against 850 kg/hectare for rabi pulses. Moong and urad showed poor productivity of 465 kg/hectare and 535 kg/hectare, despite the fact that these pulse varieties are largely consumed

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