Worries about patchy rains hitting the country’s food grain output and farmers’ income re-emerged after monsoon rainfall in crucial August remained 24% below normal.
However, given that crop sowing until August 27 was just 2% lower than a year ago and distribution in key grain-producing regions remained good, thanks to plentiful showers earlier in the season, some analysts expect a good Kharif harvest this year, even if not a better one than last year.
Pan-India precipitation was 9% below the benchmark long period average (LPA) as on Tuesday, even though there was a 24% deficit in August, the second-most wet month of the monsoon season (June-September) that is crucial for summer crop sowing. The deficit was 7% in July while June had 10% above normal rain. July and August together have 62% share in 88 cm LPA for the entire season.
During the 2020-21 kharif season, the foodgrains production was 148.4 million tonne, 3.2% higher from year-ago and the country’s output during kharif season has been hitting new records every year since 2016-17. Of course, higher output doesn’t necessarily result in higher farmer incomes, as prices they fetch play a crucial role. Mandi prices of 6 out of 12 major kharif crops were 8-33% below their respective 2021-22 minimum support prices (MSPs) during August 1-20.
“It is definitely a concern to receive below normal rains for two successive months. But except Gujarat and Odisha, reports from other major producing states suggest there is no concern for crops, for now. First few days of September will be very crucial to watch for how monsoon progresses,” said a senior government official. Punjab and Kerala are two other major states that reported deficient rainfall during June-August period.
While there is no concern in Punjab due to 100% irrigation, Kerala is not a major producer of foodgrain crops. Productivity of paddy in Odisha and groundnut and cotton in Gujarat is likely to drop because of lower rainfall. While Odisha has 29% below normal rainfall with as many as 23 out of 30 districts severely affected, so far, all districts in Gujarat are deficient with the state-wide rainfall at 50% below normal. Only in August, the rainfall deficit in Gujarat was 78%, highest among all the major producing states.
A stalled monsoon for three weeks till July 11 had adversely impacted sowing, but there was a pick-up of the activities after that. Sown areas crossed 99% of the season’s normal acreage of 107.3 million hectare as on August 27 as against 97.3% a week before; of course, the area under crops was still 1.8% below the year-ago level.
The rainfall was 195.9 mm as against LPA of 258.1 mm in August, according to India Meteorological Department. The weather bureau had predicted a rainfall of 99% of LPA during August. The forecast for September is 100% of LPA.
According to IMD data, the rainfall during June-August was at 644.9 mm against LPA of 710.4 mm for the three-month period. Both Central and north-west regions received 14% below-normal rains while the overall precipitation in the south peninsula was 8% above normal in these three months.
Though the rainfall in east and north-east region was 8% below normal, due to the quantitatively high level of precipitation compared with other regions, the deficit is not much of a concern for kharif sowing. Paddy acreage in country’s largest grower West Bengal was marginally higher at 3.93 million hectare as of August 27 and was progressing well to cover normal area of 4.15 million hectare under the cereal.