Grain output seen buoyant despite poor rains

New Delhi, Nov 28 | Updated: Nov 29 2004, 05:30am hrs
India is set for excellent wheat and rapeseed crops after good cotton and soybean production despite erratic rains, a leading farm scientist said. The overall winter grains and oilseeds output is estimated to fall this year due to a patchy monsoon, some crops have done well because of an increase in the area under cultivation and late rains.

At this point of time, the summer crop situation is making me smile, S Nagarajan, director of the state-run Indian Agriculture Research Institute, told Reuters. Wheat sowing is good. The area is on the higher side because rice was harvested on time. The area under rapeseed is likely to be more than last year. But Nagarajan said it was too early to give any estimates of summer crops. We will have a fairly decent guess by early March. Nagarajan said the area under summer crops was expected to rise because of good soil conditions and ideal weather. Rains during this years monsoon season, which runs from June to September, were 13 percent below normal, but post-monsoon rains in many parts of the country provided good soil moisture for sowing of summer crops.

The farm ministry said wheat has so far been sown on 5.7 million hectares compared with 5.1 million hectare last year. Summer oilseed crops have been sown on 6.7 million hectare compared with last years 6.5 million hectare. This year has been reasonably good. Cotton and soybean have been good. Rice, barring Bihar where floods damaged the crop, is good, he said. According to the Soybean Processors Association of India, winter soybean production is expected to rise to 7.2 million tonne from 6.9 million in the previous year. Traders estimate cotton production at about 20 million bales (of 170 kg each), up from 17.7 million in the previous year. Nearly 60% of Indias billion-plus population depends on the farm sector to earn a living and bad rains wipe out their incomes, which are crucial for industrial growth. Agriculture accounts for 22% of the countrys gross domestic product. Winter crops mainly cotton, groundnut, soybean and rice are sown in June and July and harvested in October and November.

Summer crops of mainly wheat and rapeseed are sown after November and reaped in February and March. Grains production in the winter season has been estimated at 100.29 million tonne compared with 112.05 million tonne a year ago, the farm ministry has said.

Oilseed output during the season is expected to be around 13.1 million tonne compared with 13.9 million in the previous year, according to the vegetable oil industry. Nagarajan said India, which has allowed commercial production of genetically modified cotton and is conducting trials of several other crops, is keen to assess various factors before launching more transgenic seeds. Doing research or conducting trials on transgenic varieties should be encouraged. But whether that is good for society will have to be evaluated, he said. Doing research is one thing, accepting it as a product is another thing.