India, world’s second-biggest rice producer, eyes big crop thanks to strong monsoon rains

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India, world’s second-largest rice exporter, is likely to see a 10% rise in acreage this year amid expectations of bountiful monsoon rains, a senior government official said.

Sowing of the No. 1 staple crop has started in parts of the country and is expected to gather pace over the next few weeks in tandem with the progress of the seasonal rains. 

Typically, sowing starts in parts of eastern India from May and gradually picks up from June onwards with the onset of monsoon season. Rice is one of the most water and labour- intensive crops.

The rice sowing area is usually about 42-43 million hectares, but plentiful monsoon showers can increase the acreage by 3-4 million hectares, said Dr A.K. Nayak, head of crop production at the National Rice Research Institute, told indoasiancommodities.com without elaborating on the expected output.

A.K. Nayak, Head of Crop Production
National Rice Research Institute

India produced a record 118 million tons of rice last year. The indications of a good rice crop will help alleviate any fears of a food shortage in the country battling the Covid-19 pandemic as well as maintain shipments to other countries.

Nayak said the output of rice would also likely get a boost from the return of thousands of workers from cities to their native villages amid the pandemic. Usually, there is a scarcity of workers during the sowing season that weighs on production.

Both in terms of productivity and acreage, India’s eastern belt is likely to be ahead, Nayak said. Production and acreage in the northern states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have plateaued in recent years.

Transplantation of the rice crop in the northern states are likely to start in the next 10-15 days, he said.

Nayak said a couple of new rice varieties holds promise for the country’s production this year. The first crop, called Maudamani, is likely to yield 20% more than other varieties while two others, Nabil and Swarna, will have 10.5% protein content compared to 8% on average, he said.

Biman Mukherji is a columnist and consulting editor at Indoasiancommodities.com. He has worked for international news organisations such as Reuters, The Wall Street Journal as well as for newspapers like The Times of India. He can be reached at biman.mukherji@indoasiancommodities.in

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