Rain deficit unlikely to hit crop output, says agriculture secretary
New Delhi: Production of rain-fed kharif foodgrains in 2017-18 is likely to match the record high achieved the previous year despite deficit rains and floods in parts of the country, a top agriculture ministry official said on Tuesday.
“We are expecting that production of foodgrains during the kharif crop season will match last year’s output despite deficit rainfall in states like Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra,” agriculture secretary Shobhana K. Pattanayak said on the sidelines of the national conference on the upcoming winter or rabi crop season.
The agriculture ministry is expected to release the first advance estimates of crop production later this week.
“We are hoping that the marginal shortfall in planting of kharif crops will be covered and the rainfall deficit will get corrected in the coming days,” Pattanayak said, adding, “Due to lower plantings, production of oilseeds may see a decline.”
Pattanayak further said that the agriculture sector, which contributes 17% to India’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs more than half of its working population, is likely to register a growth of over 4% during 2017-18, allaying fears that an unevenly spread monsoon may impact India’s farm sector.
Agriculture growth last year (2016-17) is estimated at 4.9% following a normal monsoon and a record harvest.
The June-to-September south-west monsoon which irrigates over half of India’s crop area was forecast to be normal in 2017 but has seen a deficit of 6% so far compared to the normal or 50-year average.
Data from the India Meteorological Department shows that till Tuesday, 234 of the 630 districts (for which daily rainfall data is available) were at least 20% short of the normal rainfall. Several states such as Bihar, Gujarat, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Assam also bore the brunt of floods this monsoon, leading to loss of lives and crops.
Data from the agriculture ministry shows that till 15 September planting of kharif foodgrains such as rice, pulses and coarse grains were about 2% or 1.4 million hectares lower in 2017-18 compared to the year before.
“The current crop planting progress suggests growth in foodgrain production will be much lower this year,” Nomura Research said in a note last week, adding: “Current evidence suggests there are downside risks to our agriculture GVA (gross value added) growth projection of 3.3% year-on-year in 2017-18.”
Production of foodgrains touched a record 275.7 million tonnes last year (2016-17) of which the kharif season contributed a record 138.5 million tonnes.
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