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Kharif output to plunge 18.5 pc

Our Bureau

NEW DELHI, Sept. 24

CONFIRMING fears of a widespread drought induced by poor southwest monsoon rains, the Agriculture Ministry today said that the country's kharif foodgrain production this year will be only 90.85 million tonnes (mt), a sharp 18.5 per cent drop over the record 111.51 mt level achieved in kharif 2001.

The 90.85 mt figure - based on the first `advance' estimate of foodgrain output, released at the end of the National Conference of Agriculture for Rabi Campaign here - would mark the lowest-ever kharif harvest in 13 years.

While this year's kharif rice output is slated to plunge to 66.01 mt (from 79.36 mt in kharif 2001), production of kharif coarse cereals and pulses are expected to dip to 20.61 mt (from 27.06 mt) and 4.23 mt (5.09 mt), respectively.

Within coarse cereals, the dip is most marked for bajra (from 8.10 mt to 4.43 mt), while the dip is from 11.41 mt to 9.86 mt for maize, 4.30 mt to 3.89 mt for jowar, 2.66 mt to 2.07 mt for ragi and 0.59 mt to 0.36 mt for small millets.

Among commercial crops, the decline is expected to be sharpest for cotton, with production plummeting to 88.72 lakh bales (of 170 kg each) from 116.9 lakh bales last year. In the case of oilseeds, the fall is likely to be lower - from 132 lakh tonnes (l.t) to 117.21 l.t.

Even as the output is expected to drop significantly for groundnut (from 55.50 l.t to 46.25 l.t), castor (from 7.20 l.t to 5.41 l.t), sesamum (from 6.70 l.t to 4.23 l.t) and nigerseed (from 1.7 l.t to 0.89 l.t), production is expected to be more or less stable in the case of soyabean (from 58.80 l.t to 58.21 l.t) and sunflower (from 2.10 l.t to 2.23 l.t).

The production of jute and mesta is expected to be 90.56 lakh bales (of 180 kg each) and 8.79 lakh bales, respectively this year, against their corresponding previous year's levels of 96.40 lakh bales and 11.50 lakh bales.

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