New Delhi: Concerns over the production of India’s kharif crops, mainly rice, are rising with monsoon rain deficient by over a quarter and the time for July sowing fast approaching.
“Most likely it will be a difficult situation looking at the way the monsoon is behaving,” Trilochan Mohapatra, director of Central Rice Research Institute, said from Cuttack. “About 47% of the rice area is rain-fed. This could be severely affected if the current trend continues.”
Mohapatra said continuation of the current trend would mean rice production will not be able to stay above 100 million tonnes (mt) this year. In 2011-12, the total production of rice was estimated at 103.41mt, a record.
The India Meteorological Department said on 22 June that monsoon rainfall was 67.4 millimetre (mm), down 26% from the normal 90.6mm, as of 20 June.
“Analysis of current meteorological conditions and numerical weather prediction models indicate that the conditions are not conducive for further advance of monsoon during next four-five days,” the Met office had said.
Agriculture secretary Ashish Bahuguna was not immediately available for comment.
A farmer in Haryana said he normally sowed paddy saplings by 1 July, which could be postponed by a week. This time around if rains fail after that, he would shift to bajra that needs less water.
“If it does rain this week, the situation will be okay,” said Jai Chand, the farmer in Haryana who is preparing to sow paddy in 20 acres of land. “Our astrologers are saying it will rain less.”
Former agriculture secretary P.K. Basu, who retired recently, said it was too early to fear the worst as rains in June are not so critical for agricultural production.
“We have nothing to panic about as such but it is time to be alert and be ready with a contingency plan,” Basu said. “Rainfall in July and August is most critical.” A contingency plan would entail replacement of paddy areas with coarse cereals and pulses that require less water.