Late rains help Gujarat farmers; good cotton, castor crop expected

Late rains help Gujarat farmers; good cotton, castor crop expected

Ahmedabad: Late rains in Gujarat have raised hopes that the state will be able to meet its farm output growth target of more than 9%, aided by good cotton and castor harvests.

“The worry over rain-fed areas in Saurashtra and north Gujarat is over," a senior official with the agriculture department said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to media.

As of 12 September, the state has received 85.89% of the annual average of 972mm of rainfall and as many as 211 talukas, or sub-districts, out of 225 have received rain the past two months, the state’s revenue department said.

Till 21 July, Gujarat had only received 27% of the average, compared with 53% last year. At least 97 sub-districts had very little rainfall and water levels in 183 dams stood at 29.5% of capacity, compared with 65% last year. The government had at that time mulled declaring 30% of the sub-districts as “scarcity-hit".

Land under cultivation in the state at the end of July stood at only 57% of 8.58 million ha, against 67% in the same period last year.

However, “late rains have seen the crops in fantastic condition and record crops are expected for cotton and castor," said Biren Vakil, an Ahmedabad-based commodities consultant. “We would see record in castor and better than last year in cotton."

Gujarat accounted for some 35% of cotton production in India, or about 9.2 million bales (each weighing 170kg) in the fiscal year ended in March 2007. The output has risen from 17% of national production in fiscal 2002. Although cotton production grew in real terms, unfavourable weather in fiscal 2008 cut output from an expected 12.5 million bales to about 10 million bales.

However, the rains in the second half of the cotton season allowed for sowing on more than 2.42 million ha, higher than the official estimate of 2.18 million ha.

Groundnut, the state’s other major crop, has been sown in 98.5% of the 1.77 million ha under cultivation last year.

Castor is also expected to turn in a bumper harvest this year.

“Gujarat last year had seen castor crop at 660,000 tonnes. This year, it could be highest in 15 years at 850,000 tonnes or higher," Vakil said.

The state government targets 9% farm growth this season, worth some Rs37,000 crore, compared with Rs34,000 crore last fiscal year.

The rains have eased pressure on electricity requirements of the agriculture sector by at least 1,000MW.

The Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd, the nodal agency for power generation and distribution, had, on 8 September, said industries would not be supplied power for two days in a week, in a move to help farmers use power to draw underground water. It has now eased this schedule.