Sharp showers over the week have bridged the monsoon deficit from 29 per cent to 26 per cent of the long-term average, raising hopes for the remaining paddy and a better forecast for rabi or winter-sown crops.
The patchy monsoon, the weakest in seven years, still remains a “serious concern”, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said at a food ministers’ meeting here on Friday. He added that the government would import more lentils and edible oils, but in a low-key manner so that international markets do not inflate prices.
According to the Met department, in the week ended August 19, rainfall deficiency in northwestern India changed from 65 per cent below normal to a surplus of 11 per cent. In central India, the deficit came down to 50 per cent from 65 per cent. In the south peninsular region, the rains were 12 per cent above normal from a deficiency 68 per cent a week ago.
In the country as a whole, the shortfall closed at 2 per cent below average, compared to the 56 per cent shortfall the previous week. “But you cannot call it a turnaround because overall it will remain deficient,” a Met official said.
The southwest monsoon will further pick up in many northern, northeastern and eastern states, but will be “subdued” in the northwest, a Met bulletin said.
Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar asked state agriculture ministers to gear up for a bumper winter crop. “I anticipate early and higher coverage of rabi crops this year. This is a good opportunity to ensure that the wheat is sown in time,
particularly in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal,” he said.
Raining more sops, the food ministry on Thursday announced loans at 4 per cent interest to the sugar factories that, in turn, will pass them on in cash or kind to cane growers in their areas by March 31, 2010.
A poor monsoon this year triggered a drought in over 200 farming districts, hitting crops like paddy, soyabean and sugar and will trim India’s rice output by 10 million tonnes.