Kharif sowing on rise, lower output of rice likely amid patchy rainfall

Updated on Jul 30, 2022 02:53 AM IST

The Union government did not share estimates of paddy acreage for the second consecutive week, along with cotton, in its weekly update released on Friday.

The Union government did not share estimates of paddy acreage for the second consecutive week, along with cotton, in its weekly update released on Friday.
The Union government did not share estimates of paddy acreage for the second consecutive week, along with cotton, in its weekly update released on Friday.
By, New Delhi

The area under most kharif or summer-sown crops critical for the country’s food security rose in the week ended July 29, compared to the same period last year, official data showed on Friday, but experts said they expected lower output of the main staple rice due to a patchy monsoon, potentially pushing up cereal prices.

The Union government did not share estimates of paddy acreage for the second consecutive week, along with cotton, in its weekly update released on Friday.

Last week, responding to a query from HT, a spokesperson for the agriculture ministry had said that data for rice acreage were still being collected. Estimates from the week ended July 15, when the government last shared estimates of rice acreage, had shown a 17% deficit in planting on an annual basis.

Private forecasters said the sowing window, or the period available for rice transplantation, was shrinking fast as key paddy growing states such as Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar continued to face large deficits in rainfall. Most kharif crops have to be sown during July.

“Since rainfall continues to be poor in rice-growing belts of Uttar Pradesh and the Gangetic plains, we expect rice output to be 10-15% lower than last year,” said Rahul Chauhan of IGrain India Pvt Ltd, a commodity-trading firm. In 2021-22, India’s output of rice was nearly 128 million tonne.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Friday said that a pause in the monsoon over the Indo-Gangetic plains is likely to impact paddy sowing across north and eastern Indian states.

Paddy growers in eastern and northern states have fewer options now to shift to other crops, compared to cultivators in central and southern Indian states, such as Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra, Chauhan said. “So, those who have sown paddy in eastern India and states like Uttar Pradesh will face hardships.”

Currently, the government has enough stocks of rice. As on July 1, stocks held by Union government stood at 31.5 million tonne, about 133% more than the mandatory buffer requirement of 13.5 million tonne.

However, deficit sowing of paddy has already pushed up cereal prices in private markets, especially on the back of a 3% lower wheat output due to a heatwave in March. “The prices of rice (common variety) have risen from about 2,300 a quintal to 2,600 over the past week,” said Akash Garg, a Delhi-based trader.

The government is using the extra rice in its stocks to supplement wheat in its subsidized food-handout programme that covers nearly 800 million people.

“One of the consequences will be that rice prices are likely to much higher than minimum support prices when harvests will come into markets in October,” Chauhan said.

Unlike wheat, India is a major exporter of rice. In 2021-22, India exported nearly 21 million tonnes of rice, about a sixth of its total output.

The sowing of other key crops was higher than last year’s levels, the government’s data showed. Total coverage under pulses, at 10.6 million hectares, was 2.8% higher compared to last year for this time of the year. The area under coarse cereals or millets rose by 5.11% at 14.2 million hectares. At 16.4 million hectares, the area under oilseeds had increased marginally by 0.80% for the week ending July 29.

According to IMD, rain over the country as a whole is 9% excess but there is a 16% deficiency over east and northeast India; 4% excess rains over northwest India; 21% excess over central India and 28% excess over southern peninsula.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Zia Haq reports on public policy, economy and agriculture. Particularly interested in development economics and growth theories.

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