New Delhi: An unusually dry and warm winter across northern India has impacted sowing of winter crops, even as the window for planting is nearing its end.
While overall sowing of Rabi (winter) crops is lagging behind by 6% compared to the normal area sown by this time of the year, wheat sowing is lower by 5.6%, and the shortfall in area under pulses is nearly 7%, shows data from the farm ministry released on Friday.
Sowing of oilseeds, for which India is heavily import dependent, shows a lag of nearly 12%, compared to the normal area sown by this time of the year.
Wheat has been planted so far in 27.1 million hectares, lower than the normal area of 28.8 million hectares, or a gap of 5.6%, the data shows.
While seasonal area under the wheat crop is 30 million hectares, together with pulses, oilseeds and coarse grains the total rabi area is about 63 million hectares.
Planting of winter crops begins by October and harvest starts from January.
Data on rabi sowing shows that till 1 January, crops have been planted in an area spanning 54.1 million hectares, 6.2% lower than the normal area of 57.7 million hectares sown by this time of the year.
Winter crops are sown with the residual moisture in the soil after kharif crops are harvested, and dry soil and a delayed onset of winter has meant lower sowing.
While the June-September south-west monsoon recorded a deficit of 14% for the entire country—the second consecutive year of sub-par rains—the October-December north-east monsoon has recorded a deficit of 23% till 30 December, data from the India Meteorological Department shows.
Major wheat-growing states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab recorded scanty rainfall with deficits of more than 60% compared with the average.
Late planting of wheat is likely to affect yields and lower production this year, the second consecutive year of meagre harvest. The unseasonal rains just ahead of the spring harvest in March and April led to a 7% dip in wheat production in 2014-15 compared with the previous year.
Data on planting shows a lower planting of pulses at 12.8 million hectares so far, compared with 13.8 million hectares by this time of the year, and a seasonal area of nearly 14 million hectares.
About 7.1 million hectares have been sown so far with oilseeds, compared with the normal area of 8.1 million hectares by this time. Mustard, the main oilseed grown in winter, has been planted in 6 million hectares compared with the usual of 6.7 million hectares by this time.
A lower spring harvest could mean the fourth consecutive crop failure for farmers, who were battered by two successive droughts, and a poor winter harvest due to unseasonal rains in March and April of 2015.