New Delhi: Deficit rain in parts of India has led to lower planting of crops such as pulses, oilseeds, cotton and paddy, shows data released by the agriculture ministry on the progress of kharif sowing. Overall, the area planted under these crops is 14.2% less than last year and about 9.8% less than the five-year average.

Till Friday, there was an 8% deficit in rainfall with respect to the June-September south-west monsoon, compared with the 50-year average. In parts of several states such as Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh rains are deficient by 19% or more compared to normal.

The four-month monsoon is critical to the rain-fed kharif crop season in India as more than 50% of agricultural land lacks assured irrigation. Planting of crops normally begins with the onset of monsoon in June and harvests begin in October.

Data from the agriculture ministry shows that so far 33.4 million hectares have been planted under different crops, 14% lower than the 38.9 million hectares planted by this time last year.

However, about 106 million hectares are planted during the kharif season and the difference in planted area between the two years could reduce as the monsoon picks up pace.

Among different crops, planting is the lowest for cotton with 5.5 million hectares sown so far compared to 7.2 million hectares by this time last year—a decrease of 24% year-on-year. This is largely because of deficient rain in Gujarat, where the planting is lower by 1.2 million hectares.

Less rain in Gujarat has also affected the planting of oilseeds such as groundnut. So far, 0.94 million hectares have been planted with groundnut in different states compared to 1.67 million hectares last year—a decrease of 43% year-on- year. Overall, planting of oilseeds is 13.4% less than last year.

Among pulses, farmers have sown a smaller area under arhar or pigeon peas, because of deficit rain in the central Indian states. So far 3.4 million hectares have been planted under different pulses, 19% lower than the 4.2 million hectares planted by this time last year.

Sowing is also less for the main kharif crop of paddy, with 6.7 million hectares planted so far compared to 7.9 million hectares last year—a decline of 15%. According to the agriculture ministry, planting is lower in states such as Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha. Normally, during the kharif season about 39.5 million hectares are planted under paddy.

Among different kharif crops, only the area under sugar cane is higher than last year. So far more than 5 million hectares have been planted under cane, marginally higher than last year’s 4.97 million hectares.

Data from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) shows that so far 12 of the 36 meteorological subdivisions, covering 36% of India, have seen deficit rain.

However, on 5 July, IMD said that rainfall is likely to increase in eastern, central and northern India over the next week.

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