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Dry spell may impact coarse grains, pulses

Our Bureau

The Agriculture Ministry says it is too early to panic and write off this year's kharif crop. IMD says a revival in monsoon is expected around July 16.

New Delhi , July 13

THE Agriculture Ministry has said the three-week long dry spell affecting most parts of the country is not a cause for panic "as of now" and "it is too early to write off this year's kharif crop".

Briefing newspersons on Tuesday, the Secretary, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Ms Radha Singh, said as per the India Meteorological Department's (IMD) medium range weather prediction on July 12, a revival of the monsoon was expected around July 16.

"The weather is a matter of concern and we are fully alert to the situation. At the same time, we do not think it is time to press the panic button now," she said.

According to Ms Singh, the revival of rains would improve the situation in Rayalaseema, West Uttar Pradesh, East Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Tamil Nadu, though areas such as Rajasthan, Vidarbha, West MP, Telangana and North-West India (Punjab and Haryana) will continue to experience a dry spell over the next five days.

The crops that are likely to take a hit due to the current lull in the monsoonare coarse cereals and pulses. The total area sown under kharif coarse cereals this year (as on July 7) has been only 88 lakh hectares (lh), compared to 112 lh during the same period a year ago. The shortfall of 24 lh comprises 12 lh under bajra, 8 lh under jowar and 4 lh under maize.

The major shortfall in bajra has been reported from Rajasthan (16.86 lh), which has, however, partially been made good through higher acreages in Karnataka (two lh) and Maharashtra (3.70 lh).

Good rains in Karnataka have also boosted area under maize (up 5.09 lh), which has partially offset lower acreages in States such as Andhra Pradesh (down 1.41 lh), MP (down 4.32 lh) and Rajasthan (down 2.09 lh).

In jowar, too, there has been a shortfall in Rajasthan (down 2.34 lh), MP (3.94 lh) and Maharashtra (down 2.06 lh).

Pulses production has been adversely impacted by the failure of monsoons since the third week of June.

The progressive area sown under kharif pulses is a mere 19.40 lh, which is just about half of last year's corresponding coverage of 35 lh.

But in the case of cotton and oilseeds, the news is good. The area sown under cotton so far is 44 lh, compared to last year's corresponding coverage of 38 lh, with major increases reported from Maharashtra (4.04 lh), Punjab (one lh) and Haryana (1.5 lh).

The Central Agriculture Production Commissioner, Dr C.R. Mayee, said the condition of crop was particularly good in Punjab, Haryana and North Rajasthan, where square or pre-boll formation had taken place. Moreover, the dry weather had ensured that there was no infestation of pests, including the notorious bollworm species.

In central India, too, the crop is in reasonable condition, though a lot depends on the rains reaching areas such as Vidarbha, Marathwada and Telangana before July 20. In the south, there is no immediate crisis because in States such as Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, cotton is sown even later than August.

The total area under kharif oilseeds, too, is higher, at 74.85 lh, compared to last year's 73.15 lh, with increased coverage under groundnut (28.69 lh versus 26 lh) and lower coverage under soyabean (34 lh versus 39 lh). According to Dr Mayee, rains in the past two-three days in West MP have saved the soyabean crop, though in areas such as Vidarbha, a revival before July 20 is necessary.

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