Poor rains: Centre mulls measures to cut crop loss

Written by Sandip Das | New Delhi | Updated: Jul 11 2012, 06:43am hrs
Given the delay in kharif sowing owing to the faltering monsoon, the government is expected to come up with some measures to minimise the damage. These include an increase in the supply of high-yielding paddy and pulses, relaxation in the age limit for certified seed distribution and a shift to alternative or short-duration crops.

These are the key steps the agriculture ministry took in 2009, which minimised kharif crop loss when cumulative rainfall during the monsoon (June-September) declined by 21.8% of long period average (LPA).

In 2009-10, instead of certified seeds, the agriculture ministry allowed the usage of truthfully labelled (TL) seeds, which increased the distribution of high-yielding paddy varieties to 12 lakh quintals against the figure of 6.7 lakh available in the previous year to areas which received rainfall.

These seeds were distributed in key paddy growing regions of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, where rainfall was adequate. For pulses, the availability of high-yielding varieties of seeds increased to 5.6 lakh quintal against 4.8 lakh quintal in 2008-09. The total availability of seeds in kharif 2009 was 126 lakh quintals, which was adequate to meet the requirement.

Due to such measures taken by the government, we were able to minimise crop loss despite having a deficient monsoon in 2009, Ashok Gulati, chairman, Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), told FE.

Despite severe drought-like conditions prevailing in large parts of the country in 2009, the countrys food production dropped to 218 million tonne (mt) from 234 mt in the previous year, which amounts for a decline of only 7.3%. Comparing this figure with that in 2002, grain output dropped by a huge 22.4% to 174 mt from 212 mt reported in the previous year.

The focus of our efforts was to increase food production in areas which received adequate rain in 2009, T Nanda Kumar, former secretary, ministry of agriculture said.

Rice production declined to 89 mt in 2009 from the previous years record output of 99.18 mt. Despite this, it did not disrupt supplies as the government had huge grain stocks.

With about 26% rain shortfall till date for the year, the agriculture ministry plans to roll out contingency plans for sowing alternate crops after July 15.

States have been monitoring the situation closely and we will be assisting the states when the need arises, Ashish Bahuguna, secretary, ministry of agriculture, said.

Meanwhile, Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), in its specific advisory, has urged the farmers in Bihar to avoid long-duration (145 days) rice varieties and instead go in for medium-duration varieties (120 days). This would help deal with 36% deficiency in rainfall in June.

For Rajasthan, where rainfall has been a huge 72% less than normal, farmers have been advised against growing maize and sorghum, and go for pulses and sesame, which require less water.

For Gujarat, ICAR has advised farmers against sowing groundnut or any other long-duration corp in case the monsoon is delayed beyond mid-July. For southern Karnataka, medium-duration pigeon pea varieties have been suggested.

According to the latest agriculture ministry kharif sowing data, farmers have sown pulses in 1.3 million hectare (mh), up by 66,000 hectare in the same period last season, whereas rice has been sown in 5.5 mh, against 7,5 mh reported during the same period last year.

The rain during the southwest monsoon period (June-September) is crucial for the countrys agriculture as only 40% cultivable area is irrigated. Due to sufficient rain during monsoon months, India produced a record 252.56 mt of grain in the 2011-12 crop year (July-June).

Rice production was 103.41 mt last year, of which 90.75 mt was grown in the kharif season.