Montek allays semi-drought fear

Written by Sandip Das | New Delhi | Updated: Jul 3 2012, 08:52am hrs
Says a few days of rain delay not to hit farm output, overall rain distribution pattern to matter

A fairly big rain deficit of 31% across the country notwithstanding, the weather department and key policy-makers have sought to allay concerns about a likely semi-drought situation.

Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said on Monday that a delay of a week to ten days for the rains to arrive in certain parts of the country was not going to have a huge negative impact on the farm output, adding what would matter is the overall level of rain distribution. The weather department, on its part, predicted North-west and central India, which grow considerable amount of wheat and rice, might see rainfalls in the next few days.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said about the likely behaviour of monsoon over the next few days: Rain or thunder showers would occur at many places over west coast, east and adjoining central India and north-eastern states. There would be increase in rainfall activity over north-west India.

Indias agriculture output relies significantly on rains as 40% of the area under cultivation is rainfed. Key rice-producing states like Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa depend on monsoon. The countrys agriculture GDP grew 2.8% in 2011-12 as against 7% growth in the year ago, which was on a low base of 2009-10 and saw a huge rain deficit. Grain output stood at a record 253 million tonnes in 20011-12.

Some analysts, however, reckon that with the level of deficit a month after the monsoon hit Indian shores, monsoon is bound to remain considerably below normal. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had earlier said the country was prepared to deal with a semi-drought situation and the food grain stocks were high.

The cumulative rainfall across the country had been 119.3 mm till July 1 against normal of 172 mm, official data indicated.

With monsoon reviving in eastern and central parts of the country, the met department predicted advancement of south-western monsoon into a largely dry northern India in the next few days, which is expected to give boost to kharif crop in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana. The department also predicted heavy rainfall over Konkan & Goa, Coastal Karnataka, Telangana, coastal Andhra Pradesh, south Chhattisgarh and Orissa during next two days.

Mainly because of deficient rainfall paddy acreage could decline to 37 million hectare this year, against the normal sowing area of 44 million hectare. Because of normal monsoon last year, Indias rice production was to the tune of 103 million tonne. A large chunk of countrys rice production is grown during Kharif (summer) season.

The revival of rains would boost kharif paddy prospects and few days of delay in rains are not going adversely impact output, Trilochan Mohapatra, Director, Central Rice Research Institute, a Cuttack-based premier body under Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) told FE.

The latest agriculture ministry data indicate that rice has been sown in 3.72 million hectare, coarse cereals in 1.04 million hectare, oilseeds in 1.07 mh and sugarcane in 5.2 mh till now. With the deficient rainfall during the month of June, IMD recently marginally downgraded south-western monsoon forecast to 96% of the Long Period Average (LPA) from its April prediction of 99% of LPA. LPA is calculated on the basis of an average annual rainfall received during 1951-2000, at 89 cm.