Mumbai: A delay in India’s monsoon rains is likely to reduce summer-sown rice, corn and other grain crops by 10% from a year ago, the agriculture minister said on Monday, a drop traders said was too slight to trigger a government ban on exports.
Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar’s forecast was the first of four estimates the government will issue during the 2012-13 crop season, which began in July. Summer-sown crops include rice, corn, other cereals and pulses.
Output of summer-planted grain is expected to total 117.18 million tonnes, Pawar told reporters, down 9.8% from the previous season.
“There were uncertainties about the monsoon as rains were delayed,” Pawar said. “As a result, our estimates may be lower than last year but they are better than expected.
“These are just preliminary estimates and I’m confident that production will be substantially higher as has been the case earlier,” he added.
India is the world’s second largest producer of rice and a major exporter of the grain. It is also a significant corn exporter, accounting for about 3% of global trade.
India relies on the annual monsoon to irrigate more than half of its farmland. The rains were well-below average in the first half of the June-to-September season, including during the key planting month of July, causing drought in cereal and pulse growing regions and raising fears about the fate of other crops.
The threat of widespread drought abated, however, after the monsoon staged a revival during the last week of August improving output prospects for winter crops such as wheat and rapeseed.
Pawar urged farmers to take advantage of the late-landing rain and plant their winter crops early.
“We must take advantage of revival in rains and improvement in soil moisture and encourage farmers to go for early sowing of winter crops and more than make up for the loss in kharif (summer-sown),” he said.
Pawar estimated India’s total grain output for the year may fall by 3.3% from a year ago to 249 million tonnes, but added that production of rice, wheat, corn and other cereals would still be more than demand.
India’s summer-sown rice output in 2012-13 is expected to fall 6.5% from a year ago to 85.59 million tonnes, Pawar said. Corn is expected to decline 8.2% to 14.89 million tonnes while pulses production is also expected to be 14.6% lower at 5.26 million tonnes, the minister added.
He estimated summer sugar cane output at 335.33 million tonnes, down 6.2% and the summer cotton output at 33.4 million bales, down 5.1%. REUTERS