New Delhi: Farmers are cultivating more land for summer, or kharif, crops compared with last year on the back of a healthy monsoon, raising hopes that a good harvest will ease food inflation.
Sowing by 9 July was 12% up compared with the same period last year, says an agriculture ministry report. “Higher acreages at this stage means that farmers are confident that their standing crop won’t be destroyed,” said N. Bansal, adviser, ministry of agriculture. “A good output is likely to depress food inflation trends.”
Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar had said on Friday food inflation would fall as improved rains would boost harvest. Last year, India saw its worst drought in 33 years; rainfall in June 2009 alone was short by 45%.
This had discouraged farmers from sowing rice and maize, crops that require large quantities of water. The two cereals are the staple diet in many parts of the country and usually contribute around 65% to the national crop output. Summer crop cultivation last year, as a result, went down by nearly 15%.
The monsoon has been better this year. As a result, nearly 31.8 million ha were sown by 9 July, compared with 28.4 million ha as of 9 July 2009. This is still well below the 38.7 million ha sown by 10 July 2008, which contributed to the decade’s highest grain output.
A second agriculture ministry official said sowing would peak over the next three weeks and could beat the 2008 output.
“From the trends so far, I’m confident that the next fortnight will contribute to one of India’s biggest harvests ever,” the official said, requesting anonymity.
An analyst said the trends are positive but need more time to be borne out.
“Last year, by this time, nearly 68 lakh (6.8 million) hectares were under rice cultivation and this year it is 72 lakh (7.2 million),” said P.N. Shastri, a former adviser to the Andhra Pradesh government on agricultural policy. “That’s not a great gain. But it’s positive in that farmers are planting sugar cane and oil seeds, as opposed to leaving their land fallow like last year. The next two weeks would be the right time to pass verdict,” he said.
Land under cane cultivation in Uttar Pradesh, India’s biggest cane producing state, has risen 15% to 2.5 million ha for the next season beginning October, B.S. Bisht, an official at the government’s cane development department, told Reuters news agency.
Reuters contributed to this story.