Uneven monsoon hits kharif sowing, paddy down 24%

Updated on Jul 13, 2022 03:50 AM IST

In the week ended July 8, rice, the main summer staple, witnessed a worrying 24% drop in acreage over the same period last year, latest available official data shows.

Tapi, July 10 (ANI): Labourers sow paddy saplings in a field after heavy rains lashed recently in Tapi district of Gujarat on Sunday. (ANI Photo/ANI Pic Service) (ANI)
Tapi, July 10 (ANI): Labourers sow paddy saplings in a field after heavy rains lashed recently in Tapi district of Gujarat on Sunday. (ANI Photo/ANI Pic Service) (ANI)
By, New Delhi

Planting of kharif or summer-sown crops is currently lagging last year’s levels due to an uneven monsoon, despite a recent pick-up in rains and flooding in many states. Meteorologists expect rainfall to be average for the rest of July, the most crucial month for agriculture.

In the week ended July 8, rice, the main summer staple, witnessed a worrying 24% drop in acreage over the same period last year, latest available official data shows.

The June-September monsoon, which waters nearly 60% of the country’s net-sown area, was cumulatively 2% below normal on July 8, while rainfall in June was 8% deficient, according to the India Meteorological Department.

Plentiful summer harvests help keep a lid on inflation and drive up rural spending, boosting the wider economy.

On a cumulative basis from June 1 to July 11, the rain-bearing system was 7% surplus in the country as a whole, but in northwest and eastern parts of the country, it was 6% and 3% deficient. This is a key reason for the slow down planting of paddy.

The rains were 10% excess in central India, and 27% excess in the southern states. Most crops have to be sown by July and early August, known as the so-called sowing window, for plentiful summer harvests. Summer output accounts for nearly half of India’s annual food supply.

Robust harvests are critical this year because of a global food crisis due to the Russia-Ukraine Sea conflict. “Record high food prices have triggered a global crisis this year due to the Ukraine war. This will drive millions more into extreme poverty, magnifying hunger and malnutrition,” the World Bank said on xxxxxx.

While one half of July is still available for sowing, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh Punjab and Haryana, which contribute over two-thirds of the country’s rice output, have missed out on rains.

The rains have to be timely because sowing generally starts early in eastern and southern India compared to the northwest. “Eastern states have lost a fortnight. They have to make up quickly or else they have to go for late-sown varieties,” said Dharam Pal, a former scientist with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

“There’s no reason to panic yet. Everything depends on how evenly distributed rainfall will be in July.”

Acreage of oilseeds, a scarce commodity India imports to meet overall demand, was 20.21% lower than the year-ago period, while the area under pulses showed a slight increase.

According to official sowing data, the overall area under kharif (monsoon) crops till July 08 was estimated at about 44.82 million hectares, or 9.28% lower than in the corresponding period last year.

Rains have since picked up, with a monsoon trough (rain-bearing weather trail) setting firmly in central India, spanning Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, southern Rajasthan and Odisha.

“All of central India will witness one weather system after another in July,” said Mahesh Pahlawat, a meteorologist with Skymet Ltd. That means good rainfall in these regions, he said.

Rainfall in July in considered to be most critical for paddy, whose planting has been slow, mainly due to deficit rainfall in producer states. In West Bengal, cumulative rainfall between June 1 and July 8 was sub-par in 15 out of the 19 districts. In Odisha, 16 of the 30 districts faced a monsoon deficit. In Jharkhand 23 of 24 districts have seen rains below normal. And in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, 30 of 38 districts and 71 of 75 districts faced deficits.

As on July 8, the area under paddy was less by nearly 2.2 million hectares than last year’s acreage. In Uttar Pradesh, cumulative rainfall deficit was, at its peak, 51%. The state is a large paddy producer.

A key weather pattern known as La Nina, or “little girl” in Spanish, marked by cooler ocean-surface temperatures that tends to boost the monsoon, is expected to be favourable for the Indian monsoon.

“Key ocean and atmospheric parameters remain compatible with La Nina conditions. A slight weakening of the La Nina component at the cost of ‘neutral’ probability is emerging during the late monsoon months. However, the La Nina advisory remains in place for July 2022,” Skymet said in an advisory.

But the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) index, another monsoon-influencing ocean parameter, has been “below zero for 8 consecutive weeks” Skymet said. “IOD is becoming increasingly -ve over the last few weeks. The index is below the threshold value of -0.4°C for the last 3 weeks.”

A negative IOD suppresses monsoon bursts and a likely negative IOD event through the monsoon months is expected to persist till November 2022. “The latest IOD index value for the week ending 03rd July 2022 was -0.69°C,” the weather firm said.

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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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