Low kharif prices delay winter sowing of pulses, cereals

New Delhi | Updated: November 21, 2018 7:31:50 AM

A big drop in prices of coarse cereals and pulses in the kharif season — the mandi prices are ruling much below the respective minimum support prices (see chart) — have apparently made the farmers wary of sowing these crops in the winter season.

farmers, farmers sector, farmers industry, niti aayogThe government targets foodgrains output of 283.70 million tonne, including 142.50 million tonne from the rabi season, in 2018-19 crop year.

By Prabhudatta Mishra

A big drop in prices of coarse cereals and pulses in the kharif season — the mandi prices are ruling much below the respective minimum support prices (see chart) — have apparently made the farmers wary of sowing these crops in the winter season. While the overall rabi sowing itself is down 16% from the year-ago period as farmers face a cash crunch, acreage of coarse cereals by November 16 was almost half the level a year ago at 16.27 lakh hectares.

At 69.95 lakh hectares, area under pulses also remains 18% less than the level by this time in the last rabi sowing season. According to field-level information gathered by FE from multiple sources, in many areas, farmers have shifted to wheat at the expense of chana and coarse cereals, which are now being given a policy push by the government as nutri-cereals, given their high nutritional value.

According to weekly data released by the agriculture ministry, sowing of wheat, the main rabi cereal, was also 5% lower at 51.63 lakh hectares by November 16. Area under wheat remained lower in Punjab and Haryana, while Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh reported higher acreage than last rabi season. The rabi sowing usually gets over by the end of December; a third of the sowing used to be completed by mid-November.

Since this is not the season of wheat arrivals, farmers in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh are getting relatively better prices for the cereal. These two states had seen about 2.55 lakh tonne of wheat arrivals in various mandis during the first 20 days of this month. The average mandi price of wheat in Bahraich, Uttar Pradesh, has increased to Rs 1,800 quintal from a level Rs 1,640/quintal on June 30, when the official procurement season ended.

In Pichhour mandi of Madhya Pradesh, which saw maximum arrivals of about 8,000 tonne, average wheat price was Rs 1,857/quintal on November 17 against Rs 1,520/quintal on June 28, according to agmarknet data. The government on October 3 raised the MSP of wheat by 6% to Rs 1,840/quintal for 2018-19 crop year (July-June).

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The mandi prices of tur, urad and moong – all kharif pulses – were ruling 33-36% below their respective MSPs last week in major producing centres. The mandi rates of coarse cereals such as jowar, bajra, maize and ragi were 16-38% lower than their respective MSPs. Kharif oilseeds prices were also 5-33% lower than MSPs.

“Since kharif prices are lower, many farmers hold their crops expecting rates to go up. This reduces their purchasing power to buy inputs such as seeds and fertilisers,” said former Union agriculture secretary Siraj Hussain. It is not that fields will be left vacant, but lower kharif prices might delay sowing, he said. Sowing of rabi crops begins from October and harvesting from March onwards.

The area under coarse cereals such as maize, jowar and barley also declined 45% at 16.27 lakh hectare until last Friday. The sowing area under winter rice too was down by 25% at 6.41 lakh hectare.

Fall in pulses area in the ongoing season is mainly due to less planting in Karnataka and Maharashtra, as per the agriculture ministry data. Northern and south interior parts of Karnataka are reeling under severe drought after receiving deficient monsoon rains. Marathwada region in Maharashtra received 22% deficient rainfall during the monsoon season.

Water storage at 91 major reservoirs monitored by the government was 3% lower than normal as on November 15. However, in northern and central region comprising Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, which are major growing states of rabi crops, the water in the reservoirs was more than the average of last 10 years.

The government targets foodgrains output of 283.70 million tonne, including 142.50 million tonne from the rabi season, in 2018-19 crop year. According to the first advance estimates released by the agriculture ministry in September, the country’s production of kharif foodgrains may total record 141.59 million tonne.

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