Hopes of ample rain boost kharif sowing
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New Delhi: An early onset of the annual south-west monsoon and prospects of ample rain have led to higher-than-normal sowing of rain-fed kharif crops across India, according to data released by the agriculture ministry on Friday.
Although these are initial days yet—sowing of kharif crops begins in June and continues until mid-July as the monsoon progresses across the country—data shows that farmers have so far sown 8.1 million hectares (ha) with crops including paddy, pulses, oilseeds, cotton and sugar cane.
This is close to 12.5% higher than the 7.2 million ha planted by this time last year.
During the kharif season, farmers typically plant around 106 million ha.
Higher-than-normal planting is expected this year as the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast that the June-to-September south-west monsoon will bring 98% of the normal or long-period (50-year) average rains. IMD has forecast that rains will be well-distributed across the country, including the southern states where rainfall was deficient last year.
India receives over 70% of its annual rainfall during the four-month monsoon season, which also irrigates over half of the crop area that lacks assured irrigation.
A normal monsoon last year led to a bumper harvest of foodgrains—output rose by 8% year-on-year to a record 273 million tonnes (2016-17)—and the highest-ever horticultural output, leading to a collapse of wholesale prices. The dip in farm-gate prices spread across pulses, vegetables and oilseeds such as soya bean, fuelling violent protests by farmers in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
Amid these protests, the latest data shows that farmers have planted more area under all rain-fed crops compared to the year ago. While paddy has been sown in 0.55 million ha, against 0.45 million ha, sowing of pulses is higher at 0.16 million ha compared to 0.12 million ha at this time last year.
The seasonal area under paddy and pulses is 39 million ha and 10.8 million ha, respectively.
The data further shows that planting of oilseeds and coarse grains is higher than last year. While farmers have planted sugar cane in 4.7 million ha so far, 6% higher than last year, the area under cotton is marginally lower at 1.4 million ha.
According to IMD, until Friday, India had seen 37mm of rainfall (1-9 June), 16% higher than normal. Conditions are favourable for the monsoon to advance into parts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Assam and West Bengal within the next few days, said the forecaster.