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Less rains in key states like Gujarat, UP, Punjab & others may hurt farm production

The weak monsoon may hurt crop output more than expected as rainfall has been much lower than the national average in the breadbasket states.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Jul 20, 2012, 02.05 AM IST|Original: Jul 20, 2012, 01.59 AM IST
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NEW DELHI: The weak monsoon may hurt crop output more than expected as rainfall has been much lower than the national average in the breadbasket states that account for the biggest share of India’s agricultural output.

The weather office said rainfall improved in central and eastern India, and conditions were favourable for the monsoon to revive next week in the main crop-growing areas but the outlook for crops is uncertain because of parched conditions so far and the expected El Nino phenomenon after a month.

Rainfall deficiency this season has been as high as 40% in north and northwestern India, while the key oilseed growing regions in Gujarat are 60% in deficit.

Agriculturally insignificant regions such as Sikkim and Andaman islands have a big surplus helping the national rainfall deficit look smaller at 22%.

About 70% of the sugar cane crop, 59% of oilseeds, 76% of pulses, 57% of cotton and 37% of India’s rice is cultivated in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and West Bengal, which have received very low rainfall.

Less rains in key states like Gujarat, UP, Punjab & others may hurt farm production

This is expected to dent farm income and agricultural produce but not the country’s food security as India has harvested bumper crops in recent years. The government says the situation is under control, but sector experts say production will fall. “Kharif production is likely to drop by almost 20%. Now there is very little left for farmers to do.

 


Deficiency in major rice-growing states like West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand will hit rice output badly. Similarly, coarse grain production is also likely to be down by 4-5 million tonne as rains are dangerously deficient in states like Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan,” A Haq, former chairman, Commission for Agricultural Costs and Price, said.

Even in irrigated areas, the situation is grim. Total storage in 84 major reservoirs in the country is 19% of the total capacity, down from 32.2% a year ago. There has been not much improvement in storage in the last week when the capacity was 18%.

The storage in the Bhakra dam is barely 22% of capacity, down from 48% at the same time last year. This has forced the Bhakra Beas Management Board to reduce water release by 10% to partnering states, including Punjab and Haryana, where sowing of paddy has already been hit due to deficient rains.

Trouble for farmers began even before the monsoon. Rainfall from March to May was about 25% below normal resulting in lower moisture content of the soil. This delayed sowing across the country.

“June rains are important for sowing. A delay in sowing certainly results in yield reduction. This will definitely have an impact on agriculture output. Rice, coarse grains and oilseeds are likely to decline but output of pulses may go up as in such conditions, area under pulses increases,” said Y K Alag, chairman of Institute of Rural Management, Anand.

He said the crisis situation is visible with a shortage of fodder in states like Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. “Due to poor rains, fodder crisis has arisen in dairy producing states like Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh which can escalate food prices and lead to a drop in milk production. This is alarming as it will fuel food inflation further,” he said.

Sensing the impending crisis, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has directed the animal husbandry department and Indian Council of Agricultural Research to fast track their programmes to produce more fodder for the country which is facing a shortage of 40%.

The monsoon is vital for India as 55% of the arable land depends entirely on rain for irrigation. While agriculture accounts for only about 15% of the economy, the monsoon has a wider impact because it affects millions of people in villages, and weak rainfall can raise food prices.
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