Six states that together contribute nearly half of India’s rice production have received monsoon rains considerably less than normal till Monday in the current kharif crop season, threatening to dent the country’s production of the cereal and its lucrative exports.
India’s rice output touched a record 111.52 million tonnes (mt) in the last (July-June 2017-18) crop year while the country exported 12.7 mt of rice worth Rs 49,838 crore in financial year 2017-18. The kharif crop accounts for over 86% of rice produced in the country.
However, analysts feel that since the rains have picked up over the last couple of days in parts of most of these states, the situation could still be salvaged.
The rainfall deficit in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand has been above 40% while West Bengal has received monsoon showers 27% less than normal in June 1-July16 period, according to the India Meteorological Department. Odisha and Chhattisgarh have reported deficits of 7% and 2%, respectively (see chart). According to agriculture ministry data, sowing of paddy crop was down 8% at 11.7 million hectares as of July 13 from 12.7 million hectares in the year-ago period.
The share of the rice crop is very crucial in the overall foodgrains output.
Any drop in rice output is difficult to be offset as raising the production of other foodgrain crops — wheat, pulses and coarse cereals — is not easy, experts feel.
While western Uttar Pradesh, which is largely irrigated (monsoon deficit of 42%), may not see any big impact for paddy crop, farmers in the eastern region of the state will have problems as the region is largely rain-dependent and the rain deficit now is 43%.
The paddy acreage in Bihar is not even half of what it was during this period last year. Chhattisgarh has almost same level as was in 2017 while farmers in Odisha have planted paddy in 33% less area from last year.
West Bengal, where kharif rice is usually grown in about 4.2 million hectares, the acreage has reached only 263,000 hectare as of last week compared with around 500,000 hectares in a good year.
“The rains have recovered and this will help in transplanting of the rice crop, which has to start from this week,” said Sanjoy Saha, principal scientist at ICAR’s National Rice Research Institute. He said there would not be any problem for rice production if the rains continue for a few days from now. “The plants have come out well in the nursery seed-bed even as there was monsoon rain deficit in first 45 days of the season,” he added. Transplanting can continue up to end of August depending on the rains.
Meanwhile, most parts of southern, western and coastal Odisha saw incessant rains on Monday that reduced the monsoon deficit to 7% from 16% a day earlier. Many parts of Chhattisgarh, too have received rains and the weather bureau has predicted rain or thundershowers to occur at many places over the state on Tuesday.