Agricultural situation is better than 2009: Agriculture Secretary Ashish Bahuguna
The government says the situation is much better than what the situation was in 2009 drought in the same period.
“The situation is certainly better than 2009. It is improved by day as sowing is picking up where it was lagging. However, states like Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka still remains a cause of concern. Sowing activities in rest of the country is as per the expectation,” said agriculture secretary Ashish Bahuguna.
The sowing has not improved much in the rice growing area. The less area coverage is reported in West Bengal which has received 26% less than normal rains. The total area under rice is 191 lakh ha, which is 0.24 lakh ha less than area in 2009 and 18.25 lakh ha less than what was in 2011. Rice contributes 70% of the total kharif production. Similarly, in coarse grains, the area coverage is 117. 48 lakh ha – down by 42 lakh ha in 2009 and 34 lakh ha in 2011 during the same period.
“This is matter of serious concern. There is not much worry for maize but bajra is drastically down,” he said.
The pulses acreage has also been affected badly which is around 20% down from average area at 63 lakh ha. It is 12.5 lakh ha less than what was in the drought year of 2009 and around 13.6 lakh ha less than last year.
“We have lost major area in Rajasthan and Gujarat where sowing of moong and ground nut has been hit badly due to scanty rains,” he said. The sowing of oil seeds, however, has shown improvement as the total acreage has gone up to 138 lakh ha – 7 lakh ha more than in 2009 but a lakh ha less than 2011 Kharif in the same period.
“Farmers understand better. They know what crop will be more beneficial. Since soya bean prices have gone up, farmers in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra have turned to soya bean in a big way. These two states together show an increase of 5.5 lakh ha over last year,” said Bahuguna.
The situation is still precariously placed as the July rains was also deficient by 16% after raining 30% below normal in June. The overall deficit stares at 21% and is likely remain constant till this month. “August rains are vital for crop health. If it rains well in first week of August we will be able to recover some areas particularly in Rajasthan where sowing can happen till August 15. However, I don’t see any likelihood of big recovery in Karnataka,” he said.
The weather office forecast that August will be drier than July then casts a shadow over the prospects of recovery. “August will get less rain than July. September too seems to be weak,” said Shailesh Nayak, secretary, ministry of earth sciences which governs the country’s weather office.
Meanwhile, reservoirs have started filling up after rains in central, eastern and southern parts of the country. The storage capacity has improved from 19% last week to 24% of the total capacity. But when compared to last year, the situation is still grim. The storage is still 45% below last year’s level in the same period. And it is not different than the drought year of 2009 when the storage was 23% of the total capacity.
Bhakra which irrigates grain bowl of Punjab and Haryana is filled almost half as compared to last year. The low capacity in reservoir is also affecting power generation. Out of 37 reservoirs with significant hydropower generation, the storage build up is less than or equal to normal in 24 reservoirs.