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Kharif sowing gathers pace led by monsoon surge in August

Plantings have been higher for rice, sugarcane and oilseeds, while sowing for coarse cereals, cotton and pulses still lags last year’s levels for this time of the year

india Updated: Sep 07, 2018 23:40 IST
Zia Haq
Zia Haq
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Kharif crop,Summer sown crops,Kharif season
Farm operations subsequently picked pace on the back of robust rains in many states.(AP File Photo)

Overall planting of kharif or summer-sown crops, a key indicator of the country’s agricultural output, has surpassed last year’s levels by a small margin, led by a monsoon surge in August.

Farmers have sown about 104 million hectares so far in all, which is 0.20% higher than a year ago. Plantings have been higher for rice, sugarcane and oilseeds, while sowing for coarse cereals, cotton and pulses still lags last year’s levels for this time of the year, official data released showed. Until August 10, the countrywide acreage under key summer crops was lower by 1.5% compared to a year ago. Farm operations subsequently picked pace on the back of robust rains in many states. Bountiful food output helps to keep inflation in check., although it does create its own problems in terms of returns to farmers. The monsoon so far has been 7% below normal and its spread quite uneven. The June-September monsoon is critical for the overall economy because nearly half of Indians depend on a farm income and 40% of the country’s farmlands do not have access to irrigation. Rainfall has been 24% deficient in the eastern and northeastern parts of the country, data until September 5 showed. In north India, the rains are 3% below normal currently, while they have been 6% surplus in the southern states.

“The monsoon has been very skewed. There have been floods in many states, apart from Kerala. At this stage, it is difficult to project what the kharif output will be like,” said economist Himanshu of the Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Rice has been planted in 28.1 million hectares, up 2.29% from a year ago. Pulses have been sown in 13.4 million hectares, lower by 2.2%. “Sowing is still on. These figures will undergo revision. We expect the acreage to go up further because of rains lately,” an agriculture ministry official said, requesting anonymity.

Sugarcane has been planted in about 5.1 million hectares, which is higher by 4.1% than last year. The area under oilseeds is up by 2.1% from a year ago at 1.7 million hectares. A patchy monsoon in Gujarat and Maharashtra has crimped cotton sowing, though, which is 2.39% lower. On July 5, the Cabinet announced sharply higher MSPs for 14 summer crops, setting each of these at a minimum of 1.5 times the cost of cultivation. MSP is supposed to act as a floor price for private traders, thereby helping avoid distress sales. Yet, prices of most farm commodities including soya and pulses have crashed triggering farmers’ protests. Despite higher MSPs to woo farmers, the area under coarse cereals or millets is lower by 4% from a year ago. One of the sharpest hikes in MSP came in coarse cereals, aimed at correcting prices for small farmers who grow them. The MSP for bajra was hiked to ~1950 a quintal, which is a rise of 97% over cultivation costs of about ~990.

First Published: Sep 07, 2018 23:35 IST