Uncertainty over the monsoon this year may prompt farmers to switch to soybean this kharif season. With soybean prices remaining firm for a better part of the year, farmers are likely to go for crops that offer better remuneration, senior officials of the Soybean Processors Association of India (SOPA) said.
“At current prices, soybeans are more lucrative than other crops. We could see shift towards soybeans from maize in Madhya Pradesh and cotton in other regions,” DN Pathak, executive director, SOPA said.
B V Mehta, executive director, Solvent Extractors Association of India ( SEA) agreed and stated that the acreage under soybean could go up this season. He, however, was not willing to give an exact estimate on the possible rise in crop acreage. Pathak believes that the monsoon factor could play a big role in the area that could come under soybean cultivation this kharif season. There has been a delay in the monsoon arrival and uncertainty about the rains this year, he said.
Soybean is among the most versatile and sturdy crops that can withstand heavy rains or little rains. In contrast, maize is a vulnerable crop and cannot withstand excess or deficient rains. All depends on how the monsoons pan out this year, he said. Moreover, farmers have been getting good returns with spot prices of soybean touching `3,869 per quintal on Friday, much above the MSP. Mehta said that prices have remained good throughout the year and this could encourage farmers to plant more soybean. Mehta said that soybean doesn’t need too much rainfall and timely rainfall can return better yields. Farmers always look at the competitive crops, their prices before deciding to go for new planting, he said. If the frequency of the rain is good, farmers may not switch, he added.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted a ‘near-normal’ monsoon in 2019. In contrast, private weather forecaster Skymet, citing an El Niño possibility has forecast ‘below-normal’ rains at 93% of the long-period average (LPA). A ‘near-normal’ season is 96-104% of the LPA. El Niño conditions occur as temperatures rise in the equatorial region of the Pacific Ocean, which impacts global weather.
In India, it generally leads to lower rainfall.A normal, well-distributed monsoon creates upsides to growth and keeps food inflation in check. Unevenly-distributed rains, even if normal, can hurt agricultural production. Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh account for more than 80 % of the country’s total soybean output and both states could receive lower-than-normal rainfall in 2019, according to Skymet.
SOPA, in its first survey of soybean crop for 2018-19 season, estimated the total area under soybean for 2018 at 108.396 lakh hectares. The area has increased by 6.83 lakh hectares (6.7%) as compared to previous year. The area under cultivation in Maharashtra was 36.390 lakh hectares, 10% less than the government estimates of 40.433 lakh hectares.
Similarly, the actual area in Rajasthan was 9.212 lakh hectares as compared to 10.112 lakh hectare given by the government. The area in Madhya Pradesh has, however, increased to 54.1 00 lakh hectares in 2018 as against 50.10 lakh hectares in 2017.