Production of rice, maize and pulses during kharif 2018 may fall marginally from the level seen last summer unless rainfall patterns improve, a group of analysts at HDFC Bank said on Thursday, but added that a clearer picture would emerge only by August-end. Bajra, groundnut and cotton crops are among the crops that “are most under stress” compared with last year, and vegetable production in the growing regions may have a “negative impact” due to rainfall shortage, they added.
While the India Meteorological Department (IMD) put the monsoon rainfall deficit till Thursday at 10% — wider than 6% at the end of July — the analysts said that state-wise distribution of rainfall shows that deficiency is high in Gujarat (19%), West Bengal (18%), Bihar (15%) and Jharkhand (24%). Bihar and Jharkhand could be more vulnerable as more than half of the agricultural area in these states are unirrigated.
“Overall, rainfall dynamics have deteriorated over the last two weeks with the uneven spatial distribution making some states more vulnerable than others. Sowing is steadily improving but has not caught on with the levels seen last year. As things stand today, it is likely that production levels will be at best at the same levels as last year, unless rainfall progress turns favourable,” the report said.
The last kharif season saw record foodgrain output of 138.73 million tonnes. As on August 3, kharif sowing area was down just 1.8% from the year-ago period, from a wider gap of 7.5% that prevailed a week earlier.
On that day, sowing areas for paddy, pulses and cotton were 4% below the levels a year ago compared with 12%, 9% and 8%, respectively, a week earlier, but the area under oilseeds on August 3 was 6% higher than a year ago (1% down a week earlier). The IMD forecasts for August and September — 95% of the long-period average with a model error of +/-8%, with a 47% probability of below normal rainfall and 41% probability of normal — according to the report, suggests that it is unlikely that things will turn around significantly.
Spatial distribution of rainfall, the analysts added, deteriorated in August with deficiency rising in the northwest central parts of India, areas that broadly account for 70% of overall foodgrain production in the kharif season. On a cumulative basis since the beginning of the season, the northeast region continues to record the highest rainfall deficiency of 26%. While kharif sowing as of now is marginally lower than the last summer crop season’s, higher water reserves in key reservoirs across the country could help the next rabi
(winter) crop, government officials said.