|Residents of Jalpaiguri wade through knee-deep water after floods on Monday. Picture by Biplab Basak
New Delhi, July 16: The poor rainfall performance is likely to impact India’s rice yield this year, a senior agrometeorology scientist said today amid growing concerns over the rainfall deficit persisting 45 days into the monsoon season.
Rainfall activity over the past week has reduced India’s land area under rain stress from 82 per cent on July 7 to 59 per cent today, but the cumulative rainfall is still 21 per cent below normal, according to the India Meteorological Department.
The area sown with rice, coarse cereals, pulses and oilseeds so far this year is smaller than the area under these crops this week last year, the Union agriculture ministry has said. The area under rice on July 13 this year, for example, was about 9.68 million hectares, about 13 per cent lower than the 11.2 hectares which is the normal area sown under rice for this time of the year.
“We expect some impact on the rice yield, but it is difficult to quantify it at this point in time,” Kamlesh Kumar Singh, a senior agrometeorology scientist with the IMD in New Delhi told The Telegraph.
Despite the rainfall activity over the past week, several regions of the country continue to have significant levels of rainfall deficit. The cumulative rainfall over Gangetic Bengal, for instance, is 34 per cent below normal.
The cumulative deficit increases westward, rising to 37 per cent below the normal rainfall level in Bihar, 53 per cent below normal in western Uttar Pradesh, and 70 per cent below normal in Saurashtra.
“The big question is whether the rest of July can make up for the deficit,” Singh said. Agrometeorology experts view the July rainfall as crucial as it delivers the maximum rainfall during the four-month monsoon season, and is crucial for sowing operations. The season begins in June and lasts through September.
The IMD had predicted a near-normal monsoon this year, but sections of weather scientists have cautioned that the longer this deficit persists, the lower the chance India will receive normal rains this year.
Farmers unable to transplant standard long-duration rice by July 15, Singh said, are being advised to transplant medium-duration or short-duration varieties, depending on when the conditions in their fields become conducive for transplantation. “These medium-duration and short-duration varieties can provide appreciable returns, but there may be yield reduction,” he said.
Agriculture ministry figures show that the area under coarse cereals on July 13 this year was 3.9 million hectares in contrast to the normal area of 7.9 million hectares at this time of the year. The area under pulses is 2 million hectares, against the normal of 3.2 million hectares.
Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar today said the government was ready with a contingency plan to face any monsoon eventualities. “I do not think we have reached a drought situation yet. I will wait till second week of August... (but) We are ready with contingency plan for any eventuality. We have kept sufficient seeds for late sowing,” Pawar said on the sidelines of an industry event.
“There are sufficient quantities of seeds of late-sown varieties of various crops. These have been dispatched to different states,” he said. He, however, pointed out that the situation is worrisome in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and central Maharashtra.