NEW DELHI: India’s kharif crop outlook remains good despite weak rainfall in the past week, but monsoon activity in the next 10 days will be crucial, top agriculture ministry officials said.
Rainfall in the past week has been 19% below average but the weather office has forecast above normal showers for the next two weeks, calming concerns of crop stress in the early phase of the rabi season.
Rainfall in Madhya Pradesh has picked up significantly in the past two days cheering farmers, but parts of Karnataka remain rain deficient. “On the whole situation is good,” agriculture secretary Shobhana K Pattanayak said. “Sowing is on track, higher by 9% over the previous year.” He said cotton, sugarcane and overall pulses situation is good with a marginal drop in tur, while urad and moong crops are in excess.
“Monsoon season is there till September and deficit rains in some parts of the country should get covered,” Pattanayak told ET. He said forecast of good rainfall in the days ahead would help crop planting and help make up for the deficit. “Next ten days are crucial for the crop planting,” he said.
Pattanayak said the Centre was in constant touch with state governments. In southern Karnataka rainfall has been 38% below normal, while the deficit in coastal areas of the state is 15%. State agriculture secretary M Maheshwar Rao said farmers had planted crops on 28 lakh hectare out of the 73 lakh hectare arable land.
“Planting is higher than the previous year when only 25 lakh hectare was covered during the same period. We are waiting for the rains. It should improve the situation,” he said.
Rao said areca nut (betel nut) and coconut were largely affected due to the moisture stress due to two years of drought situation. “Reservoirs from Krishnaraja Sagra, Tungabhadra, Kabini, Almatti and Narayanpur, which cater to irrigation, have less water. We hope rains help to increase the water level,” he said.
In Kerala, too, rainfall so far is 24% deficient, delaying paddy cultivation in the state. “We have calculated crop damage of over Rs 31 crore for paddy and another Rs 26 crore for loss in other crops from banana, ginger, tapioca, cardamom, areca nut etc. since beginning of July till date,” said Teeka Ram Meena, the southern state’s principal agriculture secretary. He said timely rains could revive the planting.
Apart from weak rainfall last week, low water levels in key reservoirs is also a concern. Water in 91major reservoirs is 18% less than the 10-year average, according to the Central Water Commission.
The government has set a kharif crop planting target of 1,058.62 lakh hectares. Till July 7, planting was 9% more than a year ago. Farmers in Vidarbha region in Maharashtra, who had been waiting for rains for the past fortnight, are elated as rains covered the region starting early Thursday morning. “It is a very big relief.
My crop of soyabean and tur will be saved, said Ayaz Khan of Nandura village in Buldhana district of Vidarbha. “There is a 10% crop loss as the plant burnt but I have time to go for re-sowing,” he said.