Sowing of rain-fed kharif crops has been completed in 75% of the crop area, shows data released by the agriculture ministry on Friday.

While overall planting area so far is 3.3% higher than last year, farmers have planted more area under cotton and sugarcane, but reduced sowing of crops like arhar (pigeon pea) and oilseeds, the data shows.

According to the agriculture ministry, farmers have so far completed sowing in 79 million hectares, 3.3% higher than the 76.6 million hectares planted by this time last year. While rice, the main kharif crop, has been sown in 21.6 million hectares, 2.4% higher than the planting by this time last year, overall sowing of pulses is higher by 7%.

Sowing of kharif crops begins in June and continues through July as the monsoon progresses across the country. During the kharif season, farmers typically plant around 106 million hectares.

The data shows farmers have cut down area under pulse varieties like arhar, likely taking a cue from lower wholesale prices which dipped below government-announced support prices earlier this year. Area under arhar so far is 3.48 million hectares, 15.5% lower than the 4.13 million hectares planted by this time last year.

Similarly, lower oilseed prices last year have prompted farmers to sow less, the data shows. Farmers have planted various oilseeds in 14.2 million hectares so far, 9.2% lower than last year’s area. While sowing of groundnut is lower by 11.5%, that of soybean is lower by 10.3% compared to the year before, the data shows.

In comparison, better cotton prices have prompted farmers to bring in more area under the fibre crop. So far, farmers have planted over 11 million hectares under cotton, 21% higher than last year. Planting of sugarcane too is higher by 8.7%.

The June-September south-west monsoon, which waters over half of India’s farms lacking assured irrigation, has so far seen 4% surplus rains compared to the normal 50-year or long-period average, the India Meteorological Department said on Friday. However, rainfall is 15% deficient compared to normal in southern states, the forecaster said.

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