Poor monsoon to hit rice crop | india | Hindustan Times
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Poor monsoon to hit rice crop

A patchy monsoon could bring down country’s rice output by up to 21 per cent, prompting Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar to call it a “substantial drop” in Parliament on Monday. A food crisis is unlikely because granaries are full up.

india Updated: Jul 21, 2009 00:17 IST
HT Correspondent

A patchy monsoon could bring down country’s rice output by up to 21 per cent, prompting Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar to call it a “substantial drop” in Parliament on Monday. A food crisis is unlikely because granaries are full up.

“There is a drought like situation in some areas. We are worried,” Pawar said in a reply to demand for grants.

It’s not the Centre, but states that normally declare droughts, Pawar said. Manipur, Jharkhand, Assam and Madhya Pradesh have already declared some of their districts at drought-hit.

The Centre will soon send teams to assess the situation and provide assistance, he said.

The reserves held by the Food Corporation of India (FCI), the government agency that buys rice and wheat from farmers and distributes it to consumers, are about 507.83 lakh tonnes — 211.80 lakh tonnes of rice and 296.03 lakh tonnes of wheat.

“It’s unlikely that we will have to import grains. There’s no place to store more. In fact, Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Orissa have asked the Centre to allow export of rice,” said a senior government official, who didn’t wish to be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

Southwest monsoon, crucial for kharif, or summer crops, has picked up over the past two weeks, expanding the total area under key several crops, except for rice.

The area under rice, a staple cereal, stood at 114.63 lakh hectares on July 17, compared to 145.21 lakh hectares on the same date last year, a drop of 21 per cent.

“This is a big drop, but going by the food stock situation, there is no danger. We will only have a problem if we miss a good monsoon next year too,” Aloke Sinha, former FCI managing director, told HT.

“Any state which asks for the Centre’s help will get it,” Pawar said, adding 100 MW of additional power was provided to farmers of Punjab and Haryana for irrigation facilities.

Farmers were being advised to go in for alternative crops such as jawar and bajra, instead of rice, he said.

“We have stocks to meet the requirement of targeted public distribution for more than a year. We have sufficient flexibility to… ensure food security at the household level.”

Targeted distribution offers cheap foodgrain to consumers below the poverty line — those who earn less than Rs 368 per month in rural areas and Rs 569 in urban areas.