By Prabhudatta Mishra
The normal onset and steady progress of monsoon and the resultant over 30% more rainfall than the long period average (LPA) in the first fortnight have encouraged farmers to complete the sowing in time, boosting prospects for another year of bumper crop. The kharif sowing of all crops including paddy, maize, tur, groundnut, cotton and soyabean was up 13% y-o-y till last week, over the year-ago period.
The area under all kharif crops was at 92.56 lakh hectare as on June 12, against 81.74 lakh hectare in the corresponding period last year, official data show. “Very encouraging trend is seen this year as close to 10% of the normal area (1,064 lakh hectare) has been covered in the first few days of the season.
There will be definitely more areas under many focussed crops which the government has been promoting through states,” said an official. The target of food grains output will also be achieved, the official said and added that the labourers, who returned to their villages particularly in states like UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, would help contribute in sowing operations.
The government has set a target to raise the annual food grain production by 2% at 298.3 million tonne (MT), comprising 149.92 MT in kharif season and 148.4 MT during rabi, for the 2020-21 crop year (July-June) after the India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicted a ‘normal’ monsoon (102% of LPA). In 2019-20, production was 291.95 MT, against the target of 291.1 MT. Rainfall between 96% and 104% of LPA (88cm) is considered normal.
However, the planting of paddy, main kharif cereal (over 70% share in kharif food grain output), is yet to start in major producing regions comprising Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, due to government’s restrictions on the timing of sowing.
The states have disallowed farmers from taking two paddy crops in a year and they have fixed dates for sowing to begin every year to curb excessive use of groundwater. Total area under paddy across the country was at 5.59 lakh hectare as on June 12, against 4.84 lakh hectare (16% up) in the corresponding period last year
Road transport & highways minister Nitin Gadkari last week had said there was a need to change the crop pattern and reduce the acreage of wheat and rice in states like Punjab, Haryana and some parts of Uttar Pradesh.
Oilseeds area has seen a quantum jump thanks to groundnut crop planting in Rajasthan and Gujarat. Monsoon has reached Gujarat 10 days early this year and already covered southern parts of the state as well as Ahmedabad. The weather bureau has predicted fairly widespread rain with isolated heavy to very heavy rainfall over Gujarat during next 4-5 days. This spell of rainfall will aid planting of crops like cotton and groundnut, officials said. So far, cotton acreage in Gujarat, the largest producer of the fibre crop, is less than 1 lakh hectare against its normal area of 26-27 lakh hectare.
The cotton area in Punjab and Haryana has seen a jump from year-ago levels where the state governments are following the Centre’s crop diversification programme from water guzzling paddy and sugarcane. Odisha, which has set a target of 9.6 MT of foodgrains, has also decided to give major thrust on increasing areas under pulses, oilseeds and other remunerative crops like spices and vegetables to help farmers earn better.
However, robust production in recent years did not really translate into gains for farmers as prices remained subdued and lower than minimum support prices (MSPs). Though the government is betting on a bumper harvest to increase the overall agriculture growth and boost the rural economy, farm-gate prices will remain a key concern. Even as farmers struggle to get MSPs in many crops, Gadkari has flagged another problem of fixing MSPs at higher than international prices.
“But the ground reality is that our MSP is higher than the market price and international price. So this is now going to create a big economic crisis for the country… We need to find out some options, alternatives for that, and without resolving that issue in agriculture, we cannot accelerate our economy because maximum purchasing power where we need to increase the potential lies in agriculture,” Gadkari had said in a webinar.