Planting of wheat, the main winter crop, is lower by about 1.4 million hectares or 4.8% compared to last year, showed data released by the agriculture ministry on Friday.

According to the ministry, about 28.3 million hectares have been planted under wheat so far compared to 29.7 million hectares sown by this time last year.

Usually about 30.2 million hectares are planted with wheat and a lower area this year is on account of Madhya Pradesh, where close to a million hectares has not seen wheat being sown.

However, the data shows that overall an area of 58.6 million hectares have been planted under different winter or Rabi crops, only marginally lower than last year’s 58.8 million hectares. While planting of pulses is about 8% higher year-on-year (2017-18 over 2016-17), that of oilseeds is 5% lower than last year.

Normally 62 million hectares are sown during the rabi season. Planting begins by October and the crops are harvested March onwards.

The data showed that so far 15.5 million hectares have been planted under different pulses, higher than the five-year average area of 13.9 million hectares. Area under chickpea or gram, the main winter pulse, is 13% higher year-on-year.

However, area under oilseeds is lower this year at 7.6 million hectares, compared to 8 million hectares planted by this time last year. This is primarily due to lower planting of mustard in Rajasthan--by about 0.7 million hectares--compared to last year.

A robust winter crop is crucial to revive India’s plummeting agriculture growth. Following an unevenly spread monsoon last year, India’s rain-fed kharif harvest of foodgrains fell by 2.8% in 2017-18, compared to the year before. First advance estimates of GDP released by the government on Friday estimated agriculture growth rate at 2.1% in 2017-18, compared to 4.9% in 2016-17.

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