Sugarcane acreage likely to remain steady on revival of rains

Written by Reuters | New Delhi | Updated: Jun 30 2009, 06:46am hrs
Indias sugarcane acreage is likely to rise to last years level as monsoon rains revived after a patchy spell, a farm ministry official said on Monday.

The weather office last week said the annual June-September monsoon rainfall would be only 93% of the long-term average, falling below normal for the first time in four years.

We not only expect acreage to be good, production will also be higher as productivity is likely to be better in southern states, which have received good rains in the past four days or so, farm commissioner NB Singh said.

India, which has tied up deals to import a record 2.5 million tonne of sugar in 2008/09 to tide over a shortage due to lower cane availability, grows the crop on average 4 million hectare.

Farmers have planted cane on 4.19 million hectare since February when plantings began in some regions, down from 4.2 million hectare a year ago.

Singh said the government was yet to get a final report on cane plantings in Uttar Pradesh, the countrys largest cane producer.

With UPs final report, I am very sure planting will not be less than last years 4.3 million hectare, he said. Lifting a two-year freeze, India on Thursday raised the price of cane mills must pay to farmers by a third to a record high of Rs 107.76 ($2.2) per 100 kg in the new season from October.

Singh said planting of other summer-sown crops such as rice, soybean and groundnut were delayed by 10 days due to poor monsoon rains which have picked up in the past 4-5 days.

A newspaper reported on Monday that Farm Minister Sharad Pawar said late monsoon rains delayed plantings by a week.

Productivity of crops sown in June and July do not dip if farmers delay planting by 10 or 15 days. Rains have been very good in the past 40 hours and if the same progress continues, we will match last years production, he said.

He said rains have reached the main groundnut and soybean growing western states of Gujarat and Maharashtra, central state of Madhya Pradesh and southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

Rice planting had been lower at 1.83 million hectares against 2.52 million hectares a year ago and sowing would pick up only in the first week of July when rains would lash northern parts of the country, the main rice growing region, Singh said.