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Kharif crop sowing slows down as monsoon stalls

With the western sweep of the monsoon stalled over the Konkan coast, kharif crop sowing has also slowed. About 12 lakh fewer hectares have been planted than at the same time last year, according to a statement by the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare.

The biggest lags are seen in rainfed crops such as pulses and oilseeds. At this time last year, 9.93 lakh hectares of oilseeds — mostly soyabean — had been planted. This year, only half that area has been planted, at just over 5 lakh hectares.

“The monsoon has not started yet in many of the key areas. This is a rainfed crop, so farmers are delaying planting till the onset of the monsoon,” said a senior official at the National Mission on Oilseeds and Oilpalm, who did not wish to be named. The mission was launched in 2014 in an effort to reduce India’s dependence on edible oil imports by increasing domestic production to meet rising domestic demands. However, oilseed prices crashed to a five-year low last year, even as production increased. The official said lower prices were unlikely to impact the final acreage of oilseed crops.

Too early to say

Siraj Hussain, former Agriculture Secretary and now a Senior Fellow at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, also felt it was too early to predict sowing trends. “The monsoon has slowed down, so farmers are waiting,” he said. “Even if prices have fallen, they will have to sow. They are not going to leave their fields empty.”

The overall acreage ofsowing so far stands at 115.9 lakh hectares, in comparison to 128.35 lakh hectares at the same time last year. Apart from oilseeds and pulses, sowing for paddy, coarse cereals and cotton is also lagging behind slightly.

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