Area under winter crops has declined 6% until Friday from a year earlier on lesser planting of major crops, including wheat, reinforcing apprehensions that grain production is poised to fall this rabi season.
Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh had recently said that the winter harvest in 2014-15 could be a tad lower than a year before. “There was a 13% drop in monsoon rains (from the normal levels). It is natural that there would be some impact on rabi crops, but it will not be significant,” Singh had said.
In the last rabi season, the country had produced around 135 million tonnes of grain, including almost 96 million tonnes of wheat. However, with wheat planting having fallen 2.8%, or roughly a million hectares, so far, production of the key grain is expected to drop by at least a million tonnes this season unless productivity goes up substantially, said a senior government official.
Similarly, pulses planting has declined by 9.3%, stoking fears of lower production after a record rabi harvest of over 13 million tonnes last year. The sowing of oilseeds has dipped 9.6% and cereal planting has gone down 5.2%. Total area under various winter crops has dropped to 60.59 million hecatres until Friday, compared with 64.49 million hecatres in the same period of 2013-14, data showed. Winter crops are usually sown from mid-September and are harvested from mid-March.
Coupled with a projected 7% drop in the kharif grain production, a smaller rabi harvest reinforced fears that the farm sector growth will be much lower than a year before. The growth in gross value added in the farm and allied sectors last fiscal was as high as 3.8%—quite impressive by their standards—and compared with 1.7% a year before, according to the latest government estimates.
Although global farm commodity prices have eased significantly, any plunge in pulses and oilseed planting raises the country’s reliance on imports. India, a key vegetable oils buyer, imports around half of its annual requirement of cooking oils and one-fifth of pulse needs. The country, however, has sufficient stocks of wheat.Consumer price inflation touched 5% in December, up from 4.4% in the previous month, while wholesale price inflation inched up to 0.11% during the month, compared with zero in November.