Sowing of kharif crops — rice, pulses, coarse cereals, oilseeds, sugarcane and cotton is progressing well. Areas sown of key crops, except oilseeds, have been higher than the level at the same time last year, with the overall sowing 2% higher (see chart). Till now, around 64% of the sowing is done and it would continue till middle of next month. Analysts say that unless the monsoon takes a break over the next two weeks, the kharif output is likely be robust. The decline in sowing of oilseeds — 15% less than the period a year ago — is because farmers in states like Madhya Pradesh have shifted to pulses, given the low price realisation in the last season for soyabean and groundnut.
Contrary to expectations, the cropping area under pulses might shrink this year following a sharp fall in prices. The area sown till Friday is 93.36 lakh hectares, which is surprisingly 3% higher than the 90.3 hectares in 2016-17. The acreage under cotton too has risen sharply to 104.29 lakh hectares, up from 86.86 lakh hectares last year. Agriculture experts say the good rains together with the hike in the MSP (minimum support price) for pulses may have motivated farmers to sow more.The total production of pulses in 2016-17 (based on the third advance estimates) is 22.40 million tonne, up from 16.35 million tonne in 2015-16. Prices have fallen since January by about 30-35% with arhar witnessing the sharpest fall. The government procured one million tonne of arhar in 2016-17 of the total production of 4.6 million tonne.
Because of normal rainfall last year, the country’s foodgrain production in the 2016-17 crop year (July-June) is estimated to reach an all-time record of 273.38 million tonne, which is 8.7% more than the previous year. Gross value added in the farm and allied sector grew at an impressive 4.9% in 2016-17, against just 0.7% in the previous year, thanks to a bumper harvest after two straight years of drought. Last month, the Centre approved increases in MSP in the range of 5-8% for the 2017-18 kharif crop.Experts say that with India Meteorological Department (IMD) predicting normal monsoon rainfall this season (June-September), sowing activity is expected to pick up pace further. However, there are some concerns over the deficient rains in some pockets of east and deep south India.
Overall monsoon rainfall has been 102% of the benchmark Long Period Average (LPA) till Friday. The IMD in its second long-range forecast stated that quantitatively the monsoon season rainfall for the country as whole is likely to be 98% of the LPA, with a model error of ± 4%.