Choppy Waters

Easing monsoon deficit holds promise for farmers, but the rain gods may be too late

Published a year ago on Jul 10, 2019 Read

As the deluge of Mumbai rains made headlines all over the country, farmers in other regions continued their muted prayers to the rain gods for their livelihood. Even as a few regions including Telangana remain untouched by heavy spells, the rain gods seem to have showered some sigh of relief to the farmers. The monsoon deficit has dropped to -21% from -33% at the end of June. Meanwhile, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) is predicting good rainfall for July and August.

However, the blessing may have come too late for the growers of kharif crops and pulses. According to Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, sowing of rice, pulses and oilseeds has seen a drastic fall so far this year. The acreage of total cultivation has dropped 27% to 234.33 lakh hectares in the last week of the kharif season. While normal sown area under paddy cultivation should be 79.36 lakh hectares, the current reported area is at 52.47 lakh hectares. Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Odisha remain worst affected. Whereas for sowing of pulses, the numbers are more worrying, with a shortfall of 71% due to states such as Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan being hit by erratic showers. This, despite heavy rains and concerns of flooding in certain parts of the states.

Four years after the country experienced a severe drought, today, the sowing rates have hit a five-year low. The Cabinet also recently approved a bump up in the minimum support prices for kharif crops ranging from 1-9%, but that may result to no avail if the crops aren’t supported by healthy rainfall.