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Kharif sowing at 5-yr low due to sluggish monsoon

Data released by the ministry of agriculture and farmers’ welfare shows that as on July 5, the area covered by all Kharif crops was 27% below normal.

india Updated: Jul 10, 2019 07:47 IST
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farming,farmer issues,agrarian distress
The shortfall was the most severe in the major pulse-producing states of Madhya Pradesh (shortfall of 88% over the normal sown area), Karnataka (82%), Maharashtra (93%) and Rajasthan (52%).(HTFile)

On July 3, the Union Cabinet approved an increase of 1% to 9% in the minimum support price (MSP) towards Kharif crops—or the price the government assures to pay farmers for produce sold to it—for the 2019-20 season. While this was welcome news, the slow onset and progress of the south-west monsoon this year has meant that sowing of all Kharif crops has been dismal so far, especially that of pulses.

Data released by the ministry of agriculture and farmers’ welfare shows that as on July 5, the area covered by all Kharif crops was 27% below normal.

The sowing shortfall was the worst in pulses at 71% below the normal sown area.

The shortfall was the most severe in the major pulse-producing states of Madhya Pradesh (shortfall of 88% over the normal sown area), Karnataka (82%), Maharashtra (93%) and Rajasthan (52%).

These four states account for about 69% of India’s area under cultivation in pulses and the cultivation here is largely rain-fed.

Production of pulses is crucial to the agrarian economy in these states, and data shows the sowing rates for the entire country is the slowest since 2014, even lower than the severe drought years of 2015-16.

A shortfall in production of pulses may lead to a spike in prices. In 2016, following two consecutive years of drought, pulse prices skyrocketed, putting an essential source of protein beyond the means of many.

While the increase in MSP is meant to incentivise sowing, this will mean little unless the rains pick up pace.

Despite a recent surge in the south-west monsoon, the nationwide shortfall in rainfall as on July 4 remained at 28% of the long-period average. Fortunately, forecasts by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) indicate an intensification of monsoons over agrarian heartlands in central India over the next fortnight, serving as a much-needed boost for farmers. But will the deficit be bridged?

First Published: Jul 10, 2019 07:47 IST

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