Paddy sowing up; pulses, cotton, oilseeds decline

Lower rainfall in August and falling reservoir levels may negatively impact yields.

Puja Das
Updated26 Aug 2023, 12:30 AM IST
The decline in water levels raises concerns about crop yields, although heavy rainfall predicted for the next five days may improve reservoir levels. However, some meteorologists expect August rainfall deficiency to widen to 40%, with most of India experiencing below-normal rain.
The decline in water levels raises concerns about crop yields, although heavy rainfall predicted for the next five days may improve reservoir levels. However, some meteorologists expect August rainfall deficiency to widen to 40%, with most of India experiencing below-normal rain.(PTI)

Amid an erratic monsoon, farmers planted more paddy this kharif season, and less of pulses, cotton and oilseeds. According to agriculture ministry data released on Friday, overall kharif sowing inched up 3.6% from last year to touch 105.4 million hectares (mh).

While paddy sowing rose 16.2% to 38.4 mh, pulses acreage shrank 10.6% to 11.7 mh. The fall in pulses sowing includes a 2.3% and nearly 5% drop in tur (arhar or pigeon pea) and urad (black gram) to 4.2 mh and 3.1 mh respectively, two items which recorded a jump in prices this season and jointly account for two-thirds of the kharif pulses basket. Area under moong cultivation also declined 2.7% to 3.1 mh.

Area under cotton and oilseeds shrank around 3% and 2%, respectively. Farmers cultivated cotton over 12.2 mh and kharif oilseeds on 18.8 mh, including 12.4 mh under soya bean and 4.3 mh under groundnut. Similarly, in the millet basket, the area under jowar fell 1.2% to 1.3 mh. However, farmers have been seen doubling the pace of sowing maize, followed by ragi and bajra.

Crop data

Meanwhile, agriculturists cautioned that lower rainfall in August, coupled with falling reservoir levels, may hurt yields.

“Deficit rainfall during June led to delayed sowing, which pushed the crop calendar of pulses, cotton, paddy and maize to be in the vegetative phase in August, and now the below-normal precipitation is estimated to have a negative impact on yields owing to poor vegetative growth, pest infestations and problematic flower setting in different crops,” said Pushan Sharma, director–research, Crisil Market Intelligence and Analytics.

Rainfall remained 7% below normal long period average (LPA) at 611.4 mm during 1 June to 25 August.

The June-September monsoon season drives a big chunk of India’s $3 trillion economy, bringing nearly 75% of the country’s annual rains, crucial for agriculture and for replenishing reservoirs and aquifers along with meeting power demand. Over half of India’s arable land is rain-fed, and agriculture is among the biggest employment generators. Weakening rains over the past week have worsened the decline in water levels of major reservoirs, now 21% below the previous year’s levels. As of Thursday, the gap has widened from a 7% deficit at the beginning of August. Rainfall in August is deficient by about 32%, and for the week ended Wednesday, India recorded a precipitation of 43.2 mm, 22% below the long-period average. Higher water levels are critical for the agriculture sector, with farmers relying significantly on reservoirs for irrigation.

Data from the Central Water Commission (CWC) showed that the water level in 146 reservoirs is currently at 113.584 billion cubic metres (bcm), which is 64% of their overall capacity. Although there has been a slight uptick since last week, it pales in comparison with the same period last year, when storage was at 144.569 bcm. The 10-year average for this period is 120.916 bcm.

“The storage in the 146 reservoirs is presently at 79% of the same period’s storage last year and 94% of the ten-year average,” the CWC reported.

Region-wise, reservoirs in states such as Himachal Pradesh, Nagaland, and Uttarakhand fare better than the previous year. In contrast, several other states, including Punjab, Rajasthan, Bihar, and Kerala, have reported lower water levels.

Although dipping water levels raises crop yield concerns, forecast of heavy to very heavy rainfall in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and Jharkhand and northeastern states for the next five days ending 29 August is expected to soften the blow and improve reservoir levels, Crisil’s Sharma added.

Meanwhile, some meteorologists see August rainfall deficiency to widen to 40%, as only the east and north-eastern region is predicted to receive heavy rains in the rest of August.

During 1-25 August, north-west, central and south India recorded rainfall deficiency of 29%, 38%, and 64%, respectively, which is expected to increase, barring east India. “The below-normal rain in most of India during the next six days is expected because of Monsoon Intra-Seasonal Oscillation (MISO) and Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO), which provide large-scale favourable conditions for the formation of low pressure and rainfall, are currently in a suppressed phase which, along with large-scale subsidence due to the El Niño forcing, is suppressing the convection and rainfall over large parts of India,” said Vineet Kumar Singh, research scientist at Typhoon Research Center in South Korea and a former scientist with the India Meteorological Department.

Additionally, “the monsoon trough is expected to remain close to the foothills of the Himalayas in the next five-seven days; as a result, a large part of central, west and south India will see below normal precipitation,” Singh said.

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First Published:26 Aug 2023, 12:30 AM IST
HomeNewsIndiaPaddy sowing up; pulses, cotton, oilseeds decline

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