With the aggregate precipitation so far in the current monsoon season the same as the year-ago period, kharif sowing (2017-18) too kept pace with the record set last year, but experts remained cautiously optimistic of the prospect of farm output. Key pulses and oilseeds have witnessed a fall in kharif acreage, though in the case of pulses not as much as expected after the steep fall in prices on last year’s record production and unprecedented buffer stocks. According to data released by agriculture ministry on Friday, a total area of 1,028 lakh hectares have been sown so far, which is about 97% of the cultivable area.
Monsoon rains this season have been uneven. What remains to be seen is the regional distribution over the next few weeks. The temporal variations being witnessed now is a cause for concern — for example, in key pluses-growing areas like Vidarbha, central Maharashtra and eastern Madhya Pradesh, soil moisture has risen in the last few days, potentially endangering the crop. “Because of record arhar output this year which pulled down prices sharply, area under arhar this kharif season reduced 42 lakh hectares from 51 lakh hectares last year,” Nitin Kalantri, a pulses processor from Maharashtra, told FE.
The sowing of urad has, however, seen a sharp increase of 21% to 41 lakh hectares. Pulses output rose 40% to 23 million tonnes in 2016-17 crop year (July-June) from the previous year, forcing the government to curb imports by raising duties and capping volumes. “We should be looking for a good pulses output this year except arhar. The curbs on imports would help farmers realise better prices,” Pravin Dongre, chairman, India Pulses and Grains Association said. The kharif sowing of groundnut and soyabean has declined 10% and 7%, respectively, compared with last year. A section of groundnut crop has been adversely impacted by floods in Gujarat, the biggest producer of oilseeds. Floods in around 17 districts of Gujarat has resulted in crop loss in 10.98 lakh hectares in the state.
In the case of soyabean, bumper production in the 2016-17 crop year which resulted in a sharp fall in prices led to farmers shifting to other crops such as cotton. Oilseeds output rose 27% to 32 million tonnes in 2016-17 from the previous year. “The prices have been depressed due to record production and so farmers have shifted to cotton and other remunerative crops such pulses,” BV Mehta, executive director, Solvent Extractors’ Association. However, in the case of cotton, sowing is up 18% over last year. In anticipation of a bumper output, Cotton Corporation of India is gearing up for procurement that is expected to commence from October 1.
Rice sowing has been marginally below last year at 366 lakh hectares. According to data released on Thursday, the gross value added in agriculture and allied activities for the first quarter of 2017-18 (April-June) declined to 2.3% from 5.2% in the previous quarter. Despite bumper grain and horticultural crops production, livestock and animal husbandry sectors pulled down the overall growth rate.