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Paddy sowing in east hit by rain deficit

39 ‘large deficit’ districts in Bihar, U.P.

Paddy sowing is lagging behind in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh as eastern India faces a 40% deficit in monsoon rains. In those States, 39 districts fall in the India Meteorological Department’s “large deficit” category, which means they are seeing 60%-90% shortfall.

The area covered by kharif paddy crops is lower than normal at this point in the season, with a 12% drop seen nationwide. As on July 20, only 156.5 lakh hectares have seen paddy sowing, according to the Agriculture Ministry. In the corresponding week last year, it was more than 178.7 lakh hectares. That’s a shortage of almost 23 lakh hectares. The lag is much more pronounced in the eastern States. In U.P., the area covered by paddy so far is only 27 lakh hectares, or 8.29 lakh hectares less than the normal area for the week, averaged over the last five years. In Bihar, only 6 lakh hectares have been sown with paddy so far. That is less than half the normal area of 13.6 lakh hectares, averaged over five years, and only a third of last year’s 17.8 lakh hectares sown in the corresponding week.

“This will affect farmers’ income badly, especially in districts seeing 80%… deficit and above,” said Siraj Hussain, former agriculture secretary and currently a fellow at ICRIER. “Nationwide production may not be hit very much…, a small dip in production may actually increase the prices for farmers slightly.”

He explained that there is a tradition of late transplantation in many parts of UP. “If it rains even now, farmers may still go for paddy. I would say there is a window of one more week. Otherwise, they will have to go for pulses,” he said.

Mr. Hussain felt Bihar farmers would be worst affected as they would have to shift to maize production. “MSP for maize has been hiked substantially, but it is unlikely that there will be any government procurement at MSP,” he said.

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