New Delhi: Failed monsoon rains in India have created a critical situation for rural livelihood, drinking water and crops, the agriculture minister said on Friday.
The government expects early sowing of winter-sown crops over a larger area this year to offset some of the crop loss, but the farm situation remains disturbing, Sharad Pawar told a conference of state farm ministers.
“The situation is grim, not just for crop sowing and crop health but also for sustaining animal health, providing drinking water, livelihood and food, particularly for the small and marginal farmers and landless labourers,” he said.
Monsoon rains have been more than a quarter below normal this year, hitting the oilseeds and cane crops, potentially making the country an even bigger importer of sugar and edible oils next year.
Food prices in India have risen over 10% annually, although the overall wholesale price index has seen a year-on-year decline for several weeks in a row.
Sugar prices have risen sharply in India as output has fallen and the cane crop has declined for two consecutive years, helping raw sugar futures surge to the highest in nearly three decades.
“Effective enforcement actions and other steps would be taken to ensure that the prices of commodities do not rise abnormally,” Pawar said.
He said authorities need to help farmers plant alternative crops, and provide food, fodder, drinking water and employment to people, particularly in the drought-hit districts.
“At this critical stage we need to assess the current situation correctly,” he said.
Pawar said efficient use of irrigation and judicious use of ground water and reservoirs was necessary.
Official data shows that India’s main reservoirs rose barely one percentage point last week and stood at 38% of total capacity, down from 58% a year ago.
The rains improved in the past week, with the highest rainfall in a month, but soybean-growing regions in central India remained largely dry.