Ahmedabad:Gujarat is unlikely to meet its targeted 9% growth in agricultural production in the fiscal year to March 2009 and the state could declare nearly one-third of its cultivated area “scarcity-hit” if it doesn’t receive sufficient rainfall within a fortnight, a top government official said.
The state government has instructed district collectors to survey the damage to standing crops before declaring the scarcity levels.
In the past five years, Gujarat has emerged a key foodgrain producer, with annual farm growth rate of 12% against the national average of 3-4%. Crop failures in the state could hit commodity supply and prices throughout the country.
Agricultural production in the state has jumped to about Rs34,000 crore from Rs9,000 crore in five years, and was projected to reach Rs37,000 crore in 2008-09.
“Meteorological department officials have told us Gujarat could expect some rains by 31 July,” said revenue secretary P. Paneervel. “However, we cannot take any chances.”
He said 97 of the 225 talukas, or sub-districts, in the state have received inadequate rainfall and were close to being declared scarcity-hit.
The state government declares a region scarcity-hit if the rainfall it receives is less than 25% of the average recorded over a five-year period. Areas receiving rains between 25% and 35% of the average are declared “semi-scarcity-hit”.
“Last year, Gujarat’s average rainfall till 31 July 2007 was 53% of the recorded average, but the rainfall this year till 21 July is just 27%. The level of sowing completed till end-July, too, has fallen to 57% of the 85,77,000ha, from 67% last year,” Paneervel said.
Among crops, groundnut tops the sowing list in Gujarat. Out of 17,72,000ha under the crop last season, sowing has been completed in 17,45,000ha.
As for cotton, another major crop in the state, sowing has been completed in 19,57,000ha out of the total 21,85,000ha estimated to be under cotton production this year.
However, due to inclement weather from March 2007 to April 2008, cotton yield has fallen from the expected 12.5 million bales to about 10 million bales. One bale weighs about 170kg.
“If there is a drop in cotton production this year, it would have an adverse impact on overall production and prices could move up,” said Biren Vakil of Paradigm Commodities, a commodity consultancy firm in Ahmedabad. “This year is definitely bad for cotton.”
Gujarat accounts for about 35% of India’s total cotton yield that was about 31.5 million bales in 2007-08.
“Rains in areas for growing foodgrain and pulses, too, have been much below requirement,” a senior official in the state agriculture department said. “The situation is critical.”
Gujarat had expected the area for growing foodgrain to increase to 34,26,000ha in 2008-09 from 33,88,000ha last year, and production to rise to 66,60,000 tonnes from 61,17,000 tonnes, but this is unlikely now, the official said, asking not to be named as he’s not authorized to speak to the media.
“So far, oilseeds have been sown in 19,00,000ha. If rains do not happen, achieving sowing in the targeted 33,47,000ha looks unlikely,” he added.
The total area for growing oilseeds was targeted to increase to 33,47,000ha from 29,33,000ha, and production was expected to rise to 47,12,000 tonnes at the end of the kharif season, from 41,42,000 tonnes last year.
As for pulses, the total area for growing the crop was expected to increase to 994,000ha from 847,000ha last year, and production was targeted to rise to 800,000 tonnes from 654,000 tonnes.