Monsoon started well this year. Kerala received its first monsoon rains on June 3 and the Indian Meteorological Department predicted a normal monsoon for the third consecutive year with 98% of the long period average rainfall. Everything was going well that in the first week of July, the sky suddenly bid farewell to the clouds. This was an alarm bell for Indian agriculture as July is the most important time for sowing of Kharif crops.
As a result, the sowing of paddy, soyabean, maize, pulses, etc., stopped. The Meteorological Department predicted that the monsoon will once again be active in the second week of July and will gain momentum from the third week. But the monsoon released by the government on July 14 and the latest crop sowing situation is not very promising.
This year’s monsoon and kharif sowing are very sensitive for the country as the second wave of the corona pandemic has already dampened the hopes of a pick-up in demand from the industry and consumers.
Last year, agriculture was the only sector which registered a growth of 3.1 per cent during the whole year. Therefore, if there is an eclipse on agriculture this year, then the difficulties for the government on the economic front can increase a lot.
Not only this, the weakness in monsoon, especially in north-west India, where the rice bowl states of Punjab and Haryana lie, is creating many other problems as well. These two states are the epicenter of the farmers’ agitation which is more than six months old in the country and elections to the state assembly are also due in Punjab next year.
As a result, power consumption has reached its highest level due to deficient monsoon and has led to prolonged power cuts. Due to this, farmers are forced to run expensive diesel and small farmers are either postponing sowing or are getting trapped in the clutches of moneylenders and arhtiyas.
According to the latest data released by the Ministry of Agriculture on July 16 for sowing of Kharif crops, paddy has been sown in 161.97 lakh tonnes till this time, which is 12.47 lakh hectares less than the sowing done till the same time last year. This shortfall in pulses is 9.71 lakh hectare and in coarse cereals like barley, bajra, etc., 23.73 lakh hectare.
In oilseeds, 128.91 lakh hectare has been sown, which is 20.44 lakh hectare less than last year’s sowing till this time. This is not a good sign at all because we have seen 50-70% increase in the prices of all edible oils in the last year due to less oilseeds production.
Cotton sowing has also decreased by about 15 lakh hectares during this period. Sugarcane has been the only exception, registering an increase of 0.88 lakh hectares in 53.70 lakh hectares from last year’s 52.82 lakh hectares. Overall, there is a shortfall of more than 8 million hectares in kharif sowing in the country till July 14.
Monsoon conditions across the country can be seen to understand the Kharif sowing pattern. Most of the states in the four zones of the country are reeling under rain in 2021. In the eastern and northeastern states, except Sikkim, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar, all the remaining 7 states have received below average rainfall. In Manipur, this decrease has been recorded up to 63%.
In all other states of the Northeast, the shortfall is 16-29%. In central India, except Goa, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh, the remaining 5 states have received 17-37% deficient rainfall. The situation is still fine in the rest of the states except Kerala and Lakshadweep in the southern region.
But the situation in North-West India is very bad. Barring Uttarakhand, all the other 9 states and union territories are facing rain deficient. While the rainfall in Delhi is 56% below average, it is 78% in Ladakh. Punjab has received 23% less and Haryana has received 25% less rainfall.
If the forecast of the Meteorological Department regarding the rains for the next two weeks turns out to be correct, then perhaps some good news will come for the country on the agriculture front. The department says that from July 17, monsoon activities will be seen in Haryana, Punjab, North Rajasthan, North Madhya Pradesh and South Uttar Pradesh. Between July 22 and 28, there is a possibility of rain over Gujarat, Rajasthan and west coast.
But the important thing is that now is the end of the time for Kharif sowing. If in the next 10 days the monsoon does not make up its deficiency, then the time for sowing of Kharif crops will be over. In such a situation, it should be expected that in the next 2 weeks the monsoon meets the forecast of the Meteorological Department, only then this year will also be recorded as a better agricultural year like last year.
(The author is a specialist in economic and agricultural matters)
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