Sown crop area up 60 percent despite poor monsoon forecast

New Delhi, July 10 (IANS) In what should cheer policymakers and the agrarian economy, India’s sown crop area during the ensuing season, called Kharif, was up over 60 percent as on July 10 over the like day of the previous year, official data showed on Friday.

A worrying facet was that sowing of paddy was down to 89.59 hectares from 94.73 hectares.

“The total Kharif sown area as on July 10, as per reports received from states, stands at 445.11 lakh hectare as compared to 275.10 lakh hectare on the day last year,” a statement from the agriculture ministry said.

“Significant increase has been recorded in oilseeds sowing this season. It has reached 101.26 lakh hectares, while last year on the day it was 22.24 lakh hectares. Similarly, pulses sowing have touched 32.61 lakh hectares this season,” the statement added.

Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh on Tuesday had asked farmers not to panic on account of the below-average monsoon rains predicted by the Indian Meteorological Department, saying contingency plans were in place to tackle any adverse impact of a likely poor monsoon.

“Farmers need not panic. We are ready with contingency plans to tackle any possible impact of poor rains on kharif crops,” the minister told a conference with state food ministers on inflation.

“We are prepared for this year as well. However, I feel the situation will not be that bad. So far, monsoon rains have been better than expected, although there is a forecast of deficit rains this year too,” he added.

The most encouraging development was in oilseeds. Official data showed that the area sown for oileeds increased to 101.26 lakh hectares as on July 10 from 22.24 lakh hectares on the like date of 2014. Area under pulses also improved to 32.61 lakh hectares from 22.71 lakh hectares.

Cotton plantation was also up at 87.83 lakh hectares, against 45.10 lakh hectares.

The development comes against the backdrop of agriculture ministry’s advance estimate suggesting India’s grain output for the 2014-15 season (July-June) may have fallen to 251.12 million tonnes — some 14 million tonnes lower than the previous year’s record output of 265.04 million tonnes.

There were fears that this agriculture year, too, would see a slowdown in growth, or even a decline, due to monsoon forecasts. Rains during this season still account for 75 percent of the country’s precipitation and over half of the farm sector’s water needs.

Unseasonal rains in the early months of this year hit the Rabi crops, especially wheat, for which sowing starts in November and the harvest happens April-May. For the Kharif season, where sowing starts in June with paddy as the main crop, the deficit rain forecasts had raised fears.

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