Summer sowing picked up pace and narrowed a gap with last year on the back of an improvement in monsoon rains over central India, but the government’s ambitious grain production target of 261 million tonnes for this year could be missed as floods and dry spells in key regions pose risks to crops. Even in the case of other crops like oilseeds, production could be hit owing to erratic weather.
Although the monsoon rains have still trailed the long-period average by 18% so far, at 93.5 million hectares, the gap between the area under various crops this year and last has narrowed to 4.8% until Friday, compared with a 7% drop until last week. While paddy and cotton sowing has marginally increased from last year’s level, floods and dry weather in some parts of eastern and western India could adversely affect their production. The coverage of pulses and oil seeds has anyway dipped. Only an exceptional rabi harvest can salvage the situation.
Dry spells over various parts of cotton-growing states of Gujarat and Maharashtra, oilseed-producing Madhya Pradesh and floods in cane-growing Uttar Pradesh and paddy-dominant regions of Odisha can potentially affect production.
Last year, India reaped a record harvest of 264.77 million tonnes of grains.
“Decline in sowing areas under oilseeds and pulses will likely result in an increase in imports of these commodities while the country is likely to export more cotton due to an expected good output,” Ashok Gulati, chair professor agriculture, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations and former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices told FE.
Wholesale price inflation dropped to a five-month low of 5.19% in July but a pick-up in retail inflation last month to 7.96% after hitting a 29-month low in the previous month suggests underlying inflationary pressure persists. In 2009, which witnessed the worst drought in 37 years, grain output shrank 6% and food inflation hit as high as 15.27%.
As heavy rains drenched many parts of eastern India, paddy planting got a boost, but floods in some parts of Odisha in recent weeks has slowed sowing marginally. An agriculture ministry official said kharif rice, which constitute about 80% of the total annual output, is likely to match the 91.6 million tonnes (mt) achieved last year. The total rice production during 2013-14 was more than 106 mt.
Pulses sowing has declined to 9.2 million hectares until Friday, down