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India's Lagging Coverage: Paddy, Pulses, and Oilseeds Suffer as Kharif Sowing Begins

The cultivation of sugarcane, cotton, and coarse cereals has experienced an increase in acreage, supported by a 10 percent rise in rainfall during the month of May.

Shivangi Rai
Maize and Bajra lead the kharif coarse-cereals coverage, which is 1.5 lh against 1.3 lh a year ago. (Image Courtesy- Pexels)
Maize and Bajra lead the kharif coarse-cereals coverage, which is 1.5 lh against 1.3 lh a year ago. (Image Courtesy- Pexels)

According to data from the Agriculture Ministry, planting activities for Kharif crops gained momentum, with sugarcane, cotton, and coarse cereals witnessing an increase in cultivated area.

However, the sowing of paddy, pulses, and oilseeds lagged behind. The progress of kharif sowing this year has been boosted by abundant rainfall in May. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) reported that the rainfall in May was 10 percent higher than the long-term average recorded between 1971 and 2020. IMD also noted that the rainfall of 67.3 mm during that period was the third-highest since 1901, surpassed only by 95 mm in 1987 and 68.2 mm in 2021.

Expansion in Arhar and Urad Area

Paddy cultivation has been carried out on 2.17 lakh hectares (lh) of land, compared to 2.96 lh during the same period last year. The highest area under paddy cultivation has been reported in Nagaland, followed by Assam and West Bengal. However, important states such as Punjab, Haryana, Telangana, and others have yet to begin their sowing operations.

The coverage of pulses has decreased to 0.87 lh from 0.91 lh compared to the previous year. Karnataka accounts for 0.63 lh of pulse cultivation, while Uttar Pradesh accounts for an additional 0.14 lh. The sowing of arhar (pigeon pea) and urad (black matpe) seems to be increasing due to higher prices, while the area under moong and other pulses is relatively lower.

Acreage for oilseeds has also reduced to 0.53 lh from 0.56 lh last year, primarily due to a decrease in sesame cultivation (0.08 lh vs. 0.13 lh).

However, soybean and groundnut cultivation appear to be increasing, while sunflower cultivation lags behind. Karnataka (0.26 lh) and Nagaland (0.19 lh) are leading in oilseed sowing, with farmers in other significant oilseed-producing states like Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan expected to begin cultivation once the monsoon arrives.

According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), the southwest monsoon is predicted to be delayed this year and may arrive after June 4. Currently, the monsoon has reached Sri Lanka and has touched Minicoy in Lakshadweep.

Affirming Factors

The cultivation of maize and bajra has taken the lead in the coverage of kharif coarse-cereals, reaching 1.5 lakh hectares compared to 1.3 lakh hectares last year. The progress in sowing has been notably driven by Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, and Karnataka.

This year, the cultivation of sugarcane and cotton has witnessed an expected increase. The timely clearance of dues by sugar mills has provided encouragement to farmers to plant more sugarcane.

Currently, sugarcane has been planted across 46.98 lakh hectares, surpassing last year's coverage of 46.67 lakh hectares. Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra are leading the way, accounting for almost three-fourths of the total cultivated area thus far.

Cotton growers have found solace in the fact that prices have consistently remained higher than the minimum support prices in the past two seasons. Consequently, the coverage of this natural fiber crop has expanded to 13.43 lakh hectares compared to 10.78 lakh hectares last year. Notably, Haryana, Rajasthan, and Punjab have collectively contributed around 12.5 lakh hectares to the overall cotton acreage.

Storage Lower Y-O-Y

In May, North-West India, which plays a vital role in the production of kharif crops, experienced an excess rainfall of 94 percent, while Central India, another important region, received 64 percent more rainfall, according to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD).

As a consequence of this surplus rainfall, the cumulative live storage in the 146 major reservoirs amounts to 178.185 billion cubic meters (BCM), which is equivalent to 69.11 percent of their total capacity of 257.812 BCM.

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