Karnataka could be the first state to declare a drought this year, as the monsoon, below average so far, has been scanty in some regions.
The monsoon, on its last legs, has been 5% below normal, despite being predicted to be surplus. Nearly 86% of the country’s area received normal or excess rains, but the rains were patchy in the rest 14%.
This overall spread prompted Union minister of agriculture and farmer’s welfare Radha Mohan Singh to say last week that the country could be headed for a bumper summer harvest.
According to the meteorological (Met) department’s classification, monsoon is considered normal if it is within 96-104% of the 50-year average of 89 cm.
Meteorologists are hoping that a last burst of showers in states, such as Goa, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and coastal Karnataka as well as Gujarat to bridge the deficit.
At least three states – Kerala, Karnataka and Gujarat – are battling drought-like conditions in some districts. Karnataka has seven districts with deficiencies higher than 15%. Kerala has recorded a 32% shortfall while Gujarat’s deficiency has been 26%.
A ministerial panel set up by the Karnataka government is assessing the extent of crop loss and water shortfall in rain-deficit districts to make a decision on declaring drought.
In Gujarat’s Kutch region, farmers were advised to sow castor and cluster beans instead of oilseeds because of poor rains, N Chattopadhyay, the deputy director general of the Met department told HT.
This pushed up overall acreage under foodgrains by 8%, while that of pulses by 29%, according to the agriculture ministry. Farmers have sown 105.9 million hectares, which is 99.7% of the area normally sown during summer.
In contrast, rains have been very poor in many districts in southern peninsular states, such as Kerala, the whole of northeast and even Punjab and Haryana.
Karnataka’s law minister TN Jayachandra, said a decision on drought would be taken only after September 30.