With the southwest monsoon already covering the entire country and total rainfall 26 per cent higher than last year, farmers are expecting a plentiful kharif crop this year.
Only seven of the total 36 meteorological subdivisions have recorded deficient rainfall and except rice, sowing of most other kharif crops is likely to be ahead than last year’s corresponding positions.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture’s ‘Crop Weather Watch Report’ released on July 18, sowing of rice is lagging behind last year’s level by some 60,000 hectares. But experts say that with enhanced rainfall in northeast and northern plains, the pace of rice sowing will pick up soon.
The total kharif crop sowing is expected to be 100.46 million hectares in this year against 100.08 million hectares last year, which was also above average.
Kharif cultivation is done from June to October both in rain-fed and irrigated areas and accounts for over 55 per cent of India’s total food grain production.
Among cash crops, cotton seems to be farmers’ favourite this kharif season. It has already been sown in 69 lakh hectares, an increase of 16 per cent from the same period last year.
Of this, about 24 lakh hectares is the genetically modified BT cotton as farmers in the states like Punjab and Rajasthan are finding this variety more profitable as it helps them in reducing the need for pesticides.
Even sowing of oilseed crops has increased by 9 per cent as compared to the previous year. The area under soyabean cultivation has increased by 14 per cent despite delayed monsoon and late sowing in Madhya Pradesh, that accounts for over 60 per cent of the total soyabean cultivation in the country.Acreage under groundnut too has gone up by eight per cent, despite poor rainfall in early weeks of monsoon in Gujarat followed by heavy rains, causing floods.
Water availability for irrigation in most of the country’s reservoirs is very comfortable. Water stock in 78 major reservoirs monitored by the Central Water Commission is about 33 per cent, more than last year’s level and about 86 per cent more than the average of last 10 year’s storage during the same time.
Given these favourable conditions, is a bumper kharif crop a foregone conclusion this year? Ramesh Chand, a professor with the National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research, says that the sowing so far has been good in the country and if pests do not attack the crops, we would be able to achieve more than 110 million tonnes of food grain production this kharif season.
This, the professor adds, would be about 2 per cent more then last year, the growth target the Planning Commission has set for every year in the 11th Five Year Plan.