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Delayed monsoon drags down sowing of summer crops by almost 9%

Drought crisis: The total area under summer-sown crops is down (75.10 lakh hectares until Friday against 82.27 lakh hectares) even on a favourable base

Delayed monsoon drags down sowing of summer crops by almost 9%

A delay in the arrival of the monsoon and uneven distribution of rainfall have dragged down the sowing of summer crops by almost 9% until Friday from a year before, the latest farm ministry data showed, reports fe Bureau in New Delhi. Although the water storage level across 91 reservoirs in India has been the same as last year level (at 26% of the total storage capacity), partly aided by unseasonal showers in northern and central India earlier this year, sowing operation would be affected in coming weeks if the geographical spread of rainfall remains patchy on top of a deficient monsoon, as predicted by the Met department.

Area under paddy went up 4.2% until Friday from a year earlier, while that of oilseeds, too, has gone up in the initial stage of planting (see charts). However, the coverage of coarse cereals was hit the worst, having plunged by almost 60% from a year earlier, and the planting of pulses declined nearly 11% until Friday.

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Even the sowing area under cotton and sugarcane declined by 18% and 4.5%, respectively, from a year earlier. The total area under summer-sown crops is down (75.10 lakh hectares until Friday against 82.27 lakh hectares) even on a favourable base, as in 2014-15, too, planting was initially affected by dry spells and the monsoon hit the Kerala coast only on June 6, a day later than this year.

Although water reserves are at the last year’s level, according to the data from the ministry of water resources, states having lower storage than the corresponding period of last year are Rajasthan, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, many parts of which were expected to face dry spells for a second straight year. Earlier, official sources had said pulses, coarse cereals and oilseed crops could be affected because states in the northwestern and central regions are among the largest producers of these items.

The country imports more than half of its edible oil and one-fifth of its pulse requirements annually and any drop in the production of commodities further enhances reliance on imports. Luckily for the government, global prices of most of the commodities, including edible oils, are already depressed, which has reduced the risks of imported inflation significantly. Food minister Ram Vilas Paswan has also asked authorities to undertake massive anti-hoarding operations to ensure smooth supplies of items such as pulses. Summer crops are usually sown with the arrival of the monsoon rains in June and harvested from mid-September.

The quantum of rainfall during June 1-11 (40.8 millimetres) has trailed the benchmark 50-year average by just 1% despite the delay in the monsoon onset over Kerala thanks to pre-monsoon showers. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) this month revised downward its forecast of seasonal showers for this year to 88% of a long-period average (LPA) — the same as last year — from its April prediction of 93%. Private weather forecaster Skymet, however, has predicted a normal monsoon, with showers at 102% of the LPA.

After a delay of a couple of days, the southwest monsoon crossed the Mumbai coast on Friday. According to Skymet, the monsoon has already covered Kerala, Tamil Nadu parts of Karnataka and the entire northeast India. However it said that monsoon “continues to be delayed, and a little weak as the cyclonic storm in the Arabian Sea has drifted towards Oman coast, pulling the moisture from the region, which will take some time to replenish”. But it added that there were chances of good widespread rain across the country from June 13 due to multiple weather systems. “This could be construed as precursor to monsoon onset over some parts of the country,” it said.

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