PM says early sowing can begin, no need to panic

PM says early sowing can begin, no need to panic

New Delhi: The Union government asked the states on Monday to start preparing for early sowing of winter crops to mitigate damage to India’s agriculture output that has been hit by deficient rainfall this year, even as a meeting of group of ministers’ on drought remained inconclusive.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told state chief ministers during a discussion that there was no need to panic as the country had “a better understanding of how to handle a crisis such as a drought".

India’s weather office said last week that rainfall this year is likely to be around 87% of the long-term average, compared with a 93% forecast earlier, as it made an unprecedented third revision in its predictions.

The group of ministers was expected to draw up a plan to manage food supplies, restrict exports of wheat and rice, buy food from other countries and bolster domestic availability of foodgrain.

Meanwhile, a note prepared by the agriculture ministry and circulated to the chief ministers asked the states to “take necessary action to meet the demand of agriculture sector and to start campaign for early rabi cropping".

Preparations for the rabi or winter crops typically begin only around last week of September after the southwest monsoon withdraws.

Union minister for agriculture Sharad Pawar asked the state chief ministers to “personally monitor drought and price rise and to see that the steps initiated by the Centre and the states are effectively implemented".

(Jacob P. Koshy contributed to this story.)