Overall kharif picks pace but paddy planting still in deficit: Data | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Overall kharif picks pace but paddy planting still in deficit: Data

Jul 26, 2022 09:03 AM IST

A scorching summer cut wheat output by nearly 5%, prompting the government to ban on private exports. To make up for the shortfall, the government increased the share of rice in its subsidised food programme that caters to nearly 800 million beneficiaries.

Planting of a variety of kharif or summer-sown crops critical for the country’s food security has picked up pace but the area under rice, a staple, continues to lag last year’s levels by a wide margin, nearly two months into the June-September monsoon season. In its latest sowing-progress update for the week ending July 22, the government did not release acreage figures for paddy, heightening concerns of a smaller crop this year.

In its latest sowing-progress update for the week ending July 22, the government did not release acreage figures for paddy, heightening concerns of a smaller crop this year. (ANI file) PREMIUM
In its latest sowing-progress update for the week ending July 22, the government did not release acreage figures for paddy, heightening concerns of a smaller crop this year. (ANI file)

Despite the India Meteorological Department, the national weather forecaster, predicting a normal monsoon this year, rainfall deficits of between 45% and 60% till mid-July in key paddy-growing states, such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, have slowed rice sowing and likely prompted farmers to shift to other crops, analysts said.

Millions of farmers await the monsoon rains, which waters 60% of the country’s net-sown area, to plant a range of crops that account for half of the country’s annual food supply. Robust harvests are critical this year because of a global food crisis due to the Black Sea conflict.

The agriculture ministry puts out routine sowing data on the National Food Security Mission portal that tracks sowing. Robust harvests help keep a lid on food prices and boost rural prosperity in a country where half the population depends on a farm-derived income.

A spokesperson for the agriculture ministry said the “data for rice has not been uploaded because it was still being collected from states”. Usually, the ministry’s sowing updates contain figures for all major crops.

Earlier, official data for the week ended July 15 showed the paddy-sown area -- at 12.8 million hectares -- was down 17% over last year’s levels. That deficit came down from 27.5% in the week ending July 1.

A scorching summer cut wheat output by nearly 5%, prompting the government to ban on private exports. To make up for the shortfall, the government increased the share of rice in its subsidised food programme that caters to nearly 800 million beneficiaries.

Official sowing data for most other crops for the week ending July 22 showed robust progress in pulses, coarse cereals or millets and oilseeds.

At roughly 9 million hectares, the total area under pulses sown so far has risen 6.49% over last year’s levels, according to the farm ministry’s data. Yet, within the lentils segment, the area under arhar (pigeon pea) is currently deficient by 20.25% over last year.

The area under coarse cereals or millets, a key ingredient of breakfast cereals and rural diets, is up 15.7% (12.5 million hectares). Overall sowing of food crops still lags last year’s levels by 26%, the data showed, although this deficit is on account of data for sugarcane and cotton not being updated this year, and included in last year’s data. A like-to-like comparison (excluding the acreage of sugarcane and cotton from last year’s data) actually shows a 9% increase. However, data for rice has not been provided both for this year and last year.

While there are no latest official data for rice, estimates from IGrain India Pvt Ltd, a commodity-tracking firm, showed the paddy-sowing deficit is behind last year’s data by 18.5%. Most crops have to be sown by July and early August.

“It is possible that rice output could be lower mainly because of deficient rainfall in large rice-growing states, such Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand,” said Rahul Chauhan of IGrain Pvt Ltd.

Farmers in eastern India lack irrigation, which is a key reason for the slow progress in rice sowing. A smaller rice crop could increase pressure on prices of cereals, as wheat output too has been hit this year, Chauhan said.

According to IGrain data, rice had been sown on 17.05 million hectares till July 22, down from 20.92 million hectares last year for this time of the year, a deficit of 18.5%.

Till mid-July, rains were 55% short in western Uttar Pradesh, according to data from the India Meteorological Department. In Jharkhand, another big rice grower, showers were below-normal by 49%. Falls in Bihar, also a paddy grower, have been deficient by 45%, while Gangetic West Bengal got 45% less rainfall than what is normal between June 1-July 17.

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