A patchy monsoon is expected to trim India’s food productivity after a three-year surge. The government is ready with its countrywide drought plan, but hopes there will be no need to use it nationally.
“We see no reason to panic. Monsoon is active in most states and the sowing window is still open. There is deficiency in Bihar and UP, but farmers in these two states can still wait for another 10-12 days before they switch to alternate crops,” Agriculture Commissioner N.B. Singh told HT.
Echoing Singh, Bihar’s Agriculture Minister Renu Kumari Khushwaha, said over phone from Patna: “Sowing window in Bihar is open till second week of August. We have asked farmers not to panic and wait till July 31.”
Bihar rainfall is still a whopping 66 per cent deficient, according to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. However, Sitaram Yadav, a farmer in the state’s breadbasket of Sasaram said: “I cannot afford to bank on the government’s prediction. I am tilling my land for maize.”
Farmers in some parts of the country are switching to crops, which either require less water or those that grow quickly. Uneven rainfall had held up paddy sowing in many states. Already, four — Manipur, Jharkhand, Assam and Madhya Pradesh — have declared partial drought.
Both rainfall and paddy area in Punjab and Haryana — the two states account for about 15 per cent of the country’s total paddy output — have reached “reasonable levels”, Singh said.
The government has fine-tuned its contingency plan for each of India’s major farm output states. For example, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)-recommended drought plan for UP states: “Sowing of short duration pearlmillet recommended. If pearlmillet already sown has failed, it should be replaced with short duration pulses. Avoid long durations crops like pigeonpea.”
About 15 lakh quintals of seeds of all crops are on standby to meet demand, an official said. The demand for short-duration crop seeds may rise if the southwest monsoon tapers off during rest of the season. After picking up in many parts, the Met department has warned of a dip in monsoon again over central India from July 24 to 26.