New Site coming up at

Friday, September 01, 2006

Sowing remains normal despite erratic rains

With the process of withdrawal of the monsoon certain to be delayed beyond the normal schedule of September 1, the aberrations in the distribution of rainfall are accentuated by the day.

While western Rajasthan has experienced unprecedented, freakish downpour, transforming a desert into a region of lakes, the normally high rainfall belt of the north-eastern states is experiencing drought-like conditions.

However, the overall cumulative monsoon rainfall in the whole country is on the dot, being just 1 per cent short of the long-period average.

The agricultural scenario is by and large satisfactory, as both floods and drought have remained confined to limited areas. Besides, part of the damage by floods may be redeemed by growing shorter-duration crops, especially pulses like moong, urad, cowpea and others.

Barring oilseeds and coarse cereals, the planting of all other crops has been fairly satisfactory. The setback to oilseeds, notably groundnut, and coarse grains, especially bajra, is owing largely to low rainfall in July in several areas, including the groundnut belt in Andhra Pradesh and the coarse cereal bowl of Rajasthan.

The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has cautioned farmers and the administration in flood-hit areas of Rajasthan and Gujarat to be vigilant on the explosion of rodent population, as bandicoots are in their most productive phase. If unchecked, these rodents may devour crops and spread diseases.

Indeed, water storage in reservoirs has rarely been as good as at present. As many as 71 of the 76 major reservoirs have above 80 per cent storage.

All the 12 broad river basins have substantially more water than usual, with storage in the basins of Sabarmati and the rivers of Kutch being almost two-and-a-half times the last decade’s average levels.

Dams in the Godavari basin, too, have almost doubled the average water storage. This is a good sign for irrigation and hydel power production in the subsequent months.

However, there are also areas of scanty rainfall, where the fate of the crops is in jeopardy. About 22 districts in 14 states have received scanty (over 60 per cent deficient) rainfall.

These include some of the agriculturally important districts like Moga in Punjab, Kurukshetra and Mahendragarh in Haryana, Meerut and Pilibhit in west Uttar Pradesh, Kushi Nagar in east Uttar Pradesh, Kishanganj and Sitamarhi in Bihar, Korba in Chhattisgarh and Madurai, Ramanathapuram, Thanjavur, Tiruvarur and Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu.

The other rain-starved areas are Changlang, Dibang Valley and West Siang in Arunachal Pradesh, Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya, Tuensang in Nagaland, Pithoragarh in Uttaranchal, Lahaul Spiti in Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh (Leh) in Jammu and Kashmir.

Another cause for concern is the outbreak of dreaded locusts (Locusta migratoria) in Zanskar valley of Kargil and Chingtang valley of Leh.

According to ICAR, most of the pastureland and crops like barley, wheat, peas and vegetables have suffered between 35 and 72 per cent damage. The origin of this menace is suspected to be the Chinese territory along the banks of the Indus river.

Reports on sowing of crops received by the agriculture ministry till August 28 indicate that paddy has already been sown on 33.1 million hectare, some 0.5 million hectare more than the previous season’s corresponding coverage.

Among coarse grains, only maize has gained about 4 per cent in area with the crop already planted on 7.1 million hectare. The sowing of other coarse cereals is lagging.

Pulses have been sown on 10.5 million hectare, against 10.2 million hectare during the last season.

The maximum area expansion is in urad (11 per cent) and moong (7 per cent), reflecting high market prices of these dals. The total area under pulses may increase further as the sowing is still in progress.

In oilseeds, soybean is the only crop that has gained about 4 per cent additional acreage. The area under sunflower is more or less the same as last year’s. The total coverage under oilseeds so far is 15.5 million hectare, against 16.7 million hectare last year.

The sowing of commercial crops of cotton and sugarcane is virtually over. While the area under cotton is reckoned at 8.59 million hectare against last year’s 8.15 million hectare, area under sugarcane is 4.44 million hectare against last season’s 4.28 million hectare.

Source: Business Standard

No comments: