New Delhi: As the window for the sowing of rain-fed Kharif crops nears an end, farmers in India have planted less of pulses, coarse grains and oilseeds year-on-year and increased the area under sugarcane and cotton, shows data released by the agriculture ministry on Friday.
Overall, during the 2017-18 Kharif crop season, farmers have planted 97.6 million hectares under different crops so far, about 0.8% lower than the area planted by this time last year. However, overall planting is 2.9% higher than the normal or five-year average.
The data shows lower planting for pulses like arhar (pigeon pea) and moong and nearly all types of oilseeds, likely due to lower prices for these crops last year, but also due to drought like conditions in central and southern Indian states.
While the area under arhar is 18% lower than the year before, overall area under pulses is lower by 3.5% year on year. Area under coarse grains like jowar is lower by 15% while that of ragi, a popular millet grown in southern states like Karnataka, which is reeling under the fourth consecutive year of deficit rains, is 25% lower compared to the previous year.
Sowing of Kharif crops begins in June with the onset of the south-west monsoon which irrigates over half of India’s crop area. During the Kharif season, farmers typically plant around 106 million hectares.
The sharpest cut in the area, data from the farm ministry shows, is in oilseeds. Overall planting of different oilseeds is 10% lower year-on-year, and 8% lower compared to the five-year average area (2011-12 to 2015-16). The data shows that planting of soybean, groundnut and sunflower is 9%, 12% and 19% lower year-on-year, respectively.
The June to September south-west monsoon was forecast to be above normal but has so far seen a 5% deficit compared to the normal 50-year average, data from the India Meteorological Department shows. As on Friday, about 26% of India’s area has seen deficit rains of 20% or lower compared to normal, while 18% of India has seen excess rains of 20% or more compared to the long period average, the data shows.
The data also shows that August, a critical period of crop growth, has seen 24% deficit rains for the entire country, putting crops like soybean, coarse grains and pulses under moisture stress in states such as Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh. Planting of cotton is 16% higher year on year, but a prolonged dry spell may also affect yields of the fibre crop.