Kharif sowing recovers partially

by Janaki Samant

By 30 July 2021, sowing of kharif crops gathered pace following the strong revival of rainfall. At 84.8 million hectares, area sown was lower by 4.7 per cent compared to the area cultivated a year ago. This is a substantial improvement over the situation as of about a week ago on July 23 when the area sown was lower by 8.9 per cent.

Area sown under arhar, miscellaneous pulses, sugarcane, sunflower seeds and jute & mesta recorded improvements in area sown by 30 July compared to the same period last year. Sown area under other crops was lower.

Surplus rainfall was recorded during the week ended 28 July 2021. This was after four consecutive weeks of rainfall deficit. Even as rainfall appeared to be improving during the recent 2-3 weeks, its distribution was very lopsided. The subdivisions of Konkan & Goa, Madhya Maharashtra and Marathwada suffered the fury of extremely heavy rainfall. Gujarat region, Saurashtra & Kutch, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh bore the brunt of uneven temporal and spatial distribution of rainfall. This affected the progress of kharif sowing in these regions.

At 26.5 million hectares, area under rice cultivation was down by 4 per cent, year-on-year, by 30 July. So far, around 67 per cent of the normal area under rice was sown. Of the major states growing rice, only a few states such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Telangana recorded an increase in area sown. Sown area in other major states such as West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Bihar, Punjab and Jharkhand lagged significantly by 30 July 2021 compared to the area sown a year ago.

By 30 July, area sown under coarse cereals was lower by 5.7 per cent. Bajra and maize are the main coarse cereals cultivated during the kharif season. At 7.3 million hectares, area sown under maize almost reached last year’s level. Bajra was sown on 5 million hectares, which was 8.8 per cent lower year-on-year. The fall had narrowed substantially as the decline was over 30 per cent in the preceding three weeks.

As on 30 July, 10.8 million hectares was sown under pulses compared with 11.1 million hectares that was sown a year ago. This was lower by three per cent. Of the kharif pulses, arhar covers the largest area. Maharashtra and Karnataka are the two main states growing arhar. Maharashtra recorded an increase of 4.6 per cent and Karnataka witnessed a 20 per cent rise in area sown under arhar by 30 July.

Though sowing of arhar was progressing satisfactorily, sowing of green gram and black gram had yet to catch-up with last year’s level. As on 30 July, area under black gram was lower by nine per cent whereas that under green gram was down by 10 per cent, year-on-year. But even with the shortfall, there was good progress in sowing of these two pulses. A week ago, area under black gram was lower by over 22 per cent and that under green gram was down by over 18 per cent.

Area under major oilseeds was down by 5.6 per cent to 16.4 million hectares. This was 91 per cent of the normal area sown.

Area sown under soyabean was lower by 3.4 per cent by 30 July 2021. Around 11.2 million hectares was cultivated this year against 11.6 million hectares cultivated by end July 2020. Area sown in Maharashtra increased by 7.6 per cent. Because of continued high rainfall deficit, it lagged by around 13 per cent in Madhya Pradesh, the state with the largest area under soyabean cultivation. Rajasthan also witnessed 4.7 per cent lower area under soyabean cultivation by 30 July 2021 compared to a year ago.

Area under groundnut was lagging by 10.3 per cent by end-July 2021. Of the major states growing groundnuts, Gujarat cultivated 1.9 million hectares under groundnuts. Year-on-year, this was down by 7.5 per cent. The situation in Andhra Pradesh was grim. Area was down by 51.7 per cent. In Rajasthan, however, area expanded by 4.2 per cent.

Cotton was cultivated on 11.1 million hectares by end-July. Year-on-year, this was lower by 8.7 per cent. All the major states including Gujarat, Maharashtra, Telangana and Haryana recorded lower area under cotton cultivation. However, as sowing can continue till end-August, it is possible for area sown to catch up with last year’s level of 13 million hectares.

Sugarcane area was higher by 1.6 per cent to 5.4 million hectares by 30 July 2021. Cane cultivation is almost over. Very heavy rains during the week ended 28 July leading to water logging in farms in Maharashtra’s cane growing districts of Satara, Sangli and Kolhapur are likely to adversely impact yield.

IMD has predicted normal rainfall during the second half of the 2021 monsoon season. So far, the distribution of rainfall has been very uneven. A three-week long monsoon break that began in the last week of June was followed by very heavy rainfall during the second half of July. Although area sown might recover in the coming weeks following the revival in rainfall, its poor distribution is likely to have an adverse impact on the yield of kharif crops.