New Delhi: The best news to emerge out of the ample rains across India is that planting of pulses are at a five-year high, raising expectations of a bumper crop that can cool down soaring prices and tame food inflation.
However, several states like Gujarat, Kerala, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh and Odisha are witnessing deficient rains. While rainfall deficit is as high as 39%-49% in Gujarat, it is 19% in Odisha and 21% in Jharkhand. These three states had declared a drought due to sub-par rains in 2015.
Since the monsoon season started in June, India has received 1% excess rainfall. While 31% of the country has received excess rainfall and 52% of the country has received normal rainfall, 17% has received deficient rainfall.
Data released by the agriculture ministry last week shows that deficit rains have not affected planting of Kharif crops in Gujarat. An area of 5.1 million hectares has been planted so far in the state, marginally lower than the 5.3 million hectares normally sown by this time every year.
Gujarat has been facing a rainfall deficit since the beginning of the monsoon season in June, with rainfall occurring only from the second week of July and lasting just two weeks.
Meanwhile, Saurashtra and Kutch have hardly received any rainfall during the past two months.
Gujarat and Odisha, where rains were less than normal, are unlikely to impact overall production, a report from Crisil research released last week said. These two states account for only 9% of India’s total production of rice, the main monsoon crop, and Gujarat, which accounts for 29% of India’s cotton area, grows the fibre crop under irrigation. However, rain-fed groundnut production in Gujarat—the state accounts for 39% of total production in India—is vulnerable, the report warned.
Last week, rainfall distribution showed a deficit in Gujarat of around 73%. Within meteorological subdivisions, the highest deficit was in Anand of around 93%, while Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad, Kheda and Narmada recorded rainfall deficit of nearly 90% each. In Saurashtra and Kutch region, the deficit was highest for Kutch at 98%, while all other regions showed deficit rainfall of more than 50% barring Bhavnagar.
Kerala has also recorded deficit rainfall for the past two weeks. The southern Indian state, where monsoon marks its onset, started with excess monsoon in the beginning of June, reducing to normal rainfall and then a deficient rainfall in the last two weeks. Wayanad district recorded a deficit of more than 50%, while others recorded a deficit in the range of 10-30% broadly.
“Monsoon will be on the lower side in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and southern interior Karnataka. Normally, Kerala is the rainiest during Southwest monsoon, but the low pressure systems that were supposed to have formed in the Arabian Sea have not formed, hence monsoon is not active in the region,” explained Mahesh Palawat, chief meteorologist at private forecaster Skymet Weather Services Pvt. Ltd.
According to P. Rajendran, associate director of Regional Agricultural Research Station, Ambalavayal, Kerala, “Farmers were reluctant to start sowing paddy as they were waiting for more rainfall and with lack of showers, more than 50% of the paddy cultivation area has been converted to fallow land.”
He added that spices like pepper, which require water for pollination, have been affected by drought. This deficit rainfall will cause pest and management problems in crops like coffee which require different amounts of rainfall for the pre and post blooming period.
“This untimely rainfall will affect the cropping pattern of almost all crops in Kerala. Some seven years ago, Kerala used to receive 3,000mm of rainfall annually and because of this water could be stored and used in adverse situations. But now the rainfall has fallen to less than half which shows the lack of harmony between crop production and climate,” Rajendran told Mint on phone.
According to the India Meteorological Department, northwest India is expected to receive ample rainfall in the first fortnight of August, which could help reduce rainfall deficit in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. But southern peninsular regions and eastern India is expected to receive sub-par monsoon rainfall in the first half of August.
“So far, the impact of deficient rainfall in these states is not much but groundnut in Gujarat will be affected by deficient rain,” said D.K. Joshi, chief economist at Crisil. “For now, it is a waiting game. With the forecast of above normal monsoon in August, the key is how evenly distributed this rainfall is,” he added.