New Delhi: At a time when India is seeking supplies of pulses from countries as far as Mozambique in Africa, plentiful showers in rain-fed regions have led to higher than normal sowing of pulses, raising chances of a bumper crop this year.
So far, an area of 4.6 million hectares has been planted with various kharif pulses, nearly 26% more than the 3.6 million hectares planted by this time last year, shows data released by the agriculture ministry on Friday.
Many of the drought-hit states like Karnataka, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are seeing higher sowing of pulses, the data shows.
The crop area under arhar (pigeon pea), the variety that India is importing from Mozambique, has increased from 1.5 million hectares by this time last year, to over 2 million hectares this year.
If the June-to-September south-west monsoon meets the forecast of above-normal rains—till Friday rains were normal across the country—India’s pulse crop could rise to a record.
Earlier this week, food minister Ram Vilas Paswan said the government expects pulse production to come in at 20 million tonnes in 2016-17, 18% higher than the 17.06 million tonnes estimated for 2015-16.
Two consecutive droughts in 2014 and 2015 reduced production of pulses, mostly grown as a rain-fed crop, by over 11% between 2013-14 and 2015-16, causing a spike in retail prices to as high as Rs.200 per kg.
Overall sowing of crops has picked up pace with ample rains and the gap in sowing area—compared with last year—has narrowed from 23% last week to just 6% this week.
The data shows that kharif crops like rice, pulses, coarse grains, oilseeds, sugarcane and cotton have been planted in 40.6 million hectares so far, just 6% lower than the 43.2 million hectares sown by this time last year.
The normal area sown under kharif crops is 106 million hectares and sowing continues till mid to end July.
India receives about 80% of its annual rainfall during the south-west monsoon, which irrigates more than half of its farm land. Deficit rains in the past two years led to protracted rural distress besides denting production of foodgrain.
The latest data on planting shows that so far the area under the main kharif crop of rice stands at 8.2 million hectares, higher than last year’s 7.7 million hectares. The seasonal area under rice is 39.3 million hectares.
However, the area under cotton and oilseeds is lower, the data shows. So far cotton has been planted in 6.8 million hectares, 23% lower than the 8.8 million hectares planted by this time last year. A possible factor could be that better prices are driving farmers to replace cotton with pulses.
Sowing of oilseeds is also lower at 8.2 million hectares compared with 10.1 million hectares by this time last year, the data shows. Lower sowing is reported from states like Gujarat where the rains have been 56% below normal so far, the data shows.