Paddy acreage slumps 70 lakh hectares

Written by fe Bureaus | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 27 2009, 03:53am hrs
With southwest monsoon remaining largely scanty during the first half of August, sowing of paddy, the largest foodgrain grown during the kharif season, has now dropped by almost 70 lakh hectares as compared to the same period last year, deepening fears that rice output this season may dip below initial government projection of a fall of one million tonne.

Officials said that overall paddy planting by the end of this season, could remain short by almost 50 lakh hectares as compared to last year, because of weak monsoon.

According to an official statement, paddy has been planted over an area of 272.83 lakh hectares till August 20, compared with 341.44 lakh hectares sown during the same period last year, a drop of almost 21%.

The worst affected have been Jharkhand, where sowing is almost 69% less as compared to last year, Bihar, where area has been 45% less as compared to last year.

In Uttar Pradesh, paddy area till August 20 is around 36% less as compared to last year, in Tamil Nadu, the crop has been sown in around 28% less area as compared to last year and in Andhra Pradesh, paddy acreage is around 29% less as compared to last year.

Our estimates show that by the end of the season, paddy acreage will remain around 50 lakh hectares less as compared to last year, while area under oilseeds will be around 500,000-600,000 hectares less as compared to last year, NB Singh, agricultural commissioner told reporters.

He said there could be some late paddy sowing in Bihar and Jharkhand that could narrow the gap from the current around 69 lakh hectares.

The data also showed that area under oilseeds, coarse cereals and sugarcane, too, lag behind the last years level, though, the coverage of pulses and cotton has registered a rise.

Area under pulses, prices of which have surged by up to 50 per cent in the last four months on supply concerns, have risen to 88.68 lakh hectares till August 20, from 82.58 lakh hectares a year before.

While the area under arhar rose to 31.64 lakh hectares from 28.36 lakh hectares, that under moong rose to 22.31 lakh hectares from 20.76 lakh hectares.

Sowing of coarse cereals and pulses will increase in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in the next few weeks as farmers will shift from paddy because of moisture stress, Singh said.

The official statement showed that coarse cereals, comprising of jowar, bajra and maize, apart from paddy has been planted in 177.31 lakh hectares till August 20, down almost 5 lakh hectares as compared to last year.

The worst drop has been in bajra, where coverage is almost 300,000 hectares less as on August 20 as compared to the same period last year.

The statement also showed that farmers have planted cotton in more areas so far this year, with the area under the crop rising to 94.93 lakh hectares till August 20, compared with 84.53 lakh hectares a year before.

Sugarcane acreage has fallen to 42.50 lakh hectares from 43.79 lakh hectares.

Sugarcane sowing is almost over across the country, with acreage being around 100,000 hectares less than last year, Singh said.

Similarly, areas under oilseed crops dipped to 154.10 lakh hectares as on August 20, compared with 168.26 lakh hectares during the review period.

While soyabean acreage rose marginally to 94.49 lakh hectares, groundnut coverage slumped by close to 12 lakh hectares to 37.27 lakh hectares.

According to the latest data from the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the country as a whole has witnessed 26% of less rainfall so far this Kharif. Over 60% of Indias total cultivable area depends on monsoon, while the rest is irrigated.