Patchy rainfall in India raises concerns over kharif sowing

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Photo by Haifsa Rafique on Unsplash

India’s critical southwest monsoon, which stalled from June-end to mid-July, has accelerated to close the deficit in long period average (LPA) of rainfall from 7% as on July 12 to just 4% as on August 8, but concerns over kharif crop sowing persist because of uneven distribution of rainfall, ratings agency CRISIL said in a report.

While the India Meteorological Department has forecast monsoon will remain normal for the rest of the season, the country received 2% lower rains than the LPA as on August 8. Rainfall was higher by 11% and 12% in North-west India and South peninsula region, respectively.

The Central and East and North-east regions lagged 4% and 20% lower rains, respectively. The patchy distribution of rains has perturbed many farmers.

Gujarat, which accounts for 40% and 20% of total groundnut and cotton acreage, and Odisha, at 8% of total paddy acreage, are at a cumulative deficit of 43% and 28%, respectively. In contrast, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Haryana have received excessive rainfall as shown in the table below, the report said.

“In our view, overall kharif sowing is expected to be remain 1% lower on-year and 3-4% higher over the average of the past five years. Cumulative sowing till August 8 was 2% lower on-year, attributable to the advancement in sowing last year, and 3% higher than the average of the past five years,” CRISIL analysts said in the report.

According to the report, the north-west, which was facing a 19% deficit till July 12, currently has a rainfall level at 11% above LPA. This recovery has been pivotal in supporting the standing crops and improving crop acreages.

Soybean acreage

Soybean acreage in Rajasthan revived significantly and was 3% lower on-year as on August 6 compared with 40% lower as per the July 16 sowing report. Haryana received excessive rainfall (86% of LPA) during the revival phase, which damaged standing crops, especially cotton, impacting further sowing in the state.

In Central India, rainfall was 4% deficient compared with the LPA (July 13 – August 8). Good rainfall in Madhya Maharashtra, Vidarbha and Marathwada supported kharif acreage, which was merely 1% lower on-year, according to the state sowing report dated August 2.

The floods in Maharashtra were mainly concentrated in the Konkan region. According to latest government estimates, over 2 lakh hectares of crop area has been damaged.

With Indian agriculture largely rainfall-dependent, the now-on, now-off monsoon this year has shifted the sowing from much-expected oilseeds (groundnut and soybean) to maize and paddy for kharif, the report pointed out.

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