New Delhi: India’s summer-sown rice production will decline 10 million tonnes (mt) from last year’s record as inadequate rains forced farmers to plant fewer acres with the staple, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said on Wednesday.
Rice was sown in 24.7 million ha as of 12 August, compared with 30.4 million ha a year ago, the farm ministry said last week. Output of monsoon-sown rice in the year ended June was 84.6 mt.
The monsoon season, which brings about three-quarters of annual rainfall, may be the driest in seven years, the weather bureau said last week. At least a third of the nation’s 626 districts have declared drought, hurting farm output in the world’s second biggest producer of rice, sugar and wheat.
Inadequate rains: A farmer transplanting rice in Punjab. At least a third of India’s 626 districts have declared drought, hurting farm output in the world’s second biggest producer of rice, sugar and wheat. Madhu Kapparath / Mint
Production of oilseeds and sugarcane may drop, Pawar said, without providing a forecast. Monsoon-sown oilseeds were planted in 15.2 million ha compared with 16.4 million ha a year earlier, the ministry said. The government will extend the Rs15 a litre subsidy on imported edible oils until March, Pawar added.
Rain in the June-September season will be 87% of the 50-year average, compared with 93% forecast in June, the India Meteorological Department said last week.
The quantity producers set aside for selling to the nation’s poor may be raised in order to increase supplies and cool record prices, Pawar said.
The government may raise the levy quota ahead of the festival season, Pawar told reporters in New Delhi after a second round of talks with mills on measures to boost supplies. Producers will be reimbursed for the sales, he said.
Inadequate rains last year pared cane yields and cut output by half, turning India into a net importer for the first time since 2006. Production prospects for the season starting 1 October are dim because of drought. Output in the year ending 30 September may be 15 mt, lagging demand of as much as 23 mt, Pawar said. Area under cane has shrunk to 4.25 million ha from 4.38 million ha a year ago, his ministry said last week.
The levy obligation requires mills to sell 10% of their output to the government at subsidized prices for resale to the poor via a network of state-run fair price shops. While mills can sell 90% of their production at market rates, the government fixes the quantity and time of the sale.
Kutty Abraham in Mumbai contributed to this story.