Farmers continued to opt for early sowing of rabi crops as wheat, rice and mustard — key ones during the season — gained in coverage, while the area under coarse cereals, particularly that of maize, green gram (moong) and groundnut, trailed as of November 4 (Friday), data from the Ministry of Agriculture said.
In view of the early sowing, the acreage under all rabi crops has increased to 97.41 lakh hectares (lh) against 83.45 lh during the same period a year ago.
Aiding the trend
With wheat prices surging to record highs currently, farmers are showing an increased preference for the foodgrain crop. Though early, wheat acreage is up over four times this year to 7.56 lh.
Rajasthan has reported wheat coverage of 3.22 lh, Uttar Pradesh 2.37 lh, and Madhya Pradesh 1.72 lh among the major States growing the cereal. Wheat prices are ruling above ₹2,400 a quintal currently.
The sowing of the cereal has been aided by excess rainfall (Rajasthan 171 per cent, Uttar Pradesh 407 per cent and Madhya Pradesh 183 per cent) from October 1 to November 3.
The sowing of rabi paddy is up at least 10 per cent with the kharif production being affected by deficient rainfall in West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand and eastern Uttar Pradesh.
The Agriculture Ministry data showed the coverage is more in view of an early start in Tamil Nadu, where 5.93 lh has been brought under cultivation till now. Two factors helping the higher acreage are the surge in rice prices this year due to lower production and stocks, besides the Food Corporation of India trying to procure more for the central pool.
The weighted average price of paddy currently is ₹2,095 across agricultural produce marketing committee (APMC) yards against the minimum support price (MSP) of ₹2,040. However, experts said there were concerns over the crop’s development given the India Meteorological Department forecast of excess rains in the peninsular south in November.
It is early days yet with regard to wheat and paddy sowing and there is a long way to go. The normal area under wheat and paddy is 304.47 lh and 45.65 lh, respectively.
Rajasthan takes the lead
Though prices of oilseeds are ruling lower than last year, the area under mustard has increased by almost 20 per cent to 45.71 lh. So far, mustard has made up 97 per cent of the total area under oilseeds. Normally, it makes up 80 per cent (63.46 lh) of the total rabi oilseeds coverage (78.81 lh).
The bulk of mustard sowing has been accounted by Rajasthan (31.92 lh), followed by Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Currently, the weighted average price of mustard is ₹6,215 against the MSP of ₹5,050 a quintal. Last year, during the same period, the oilseed ruled at ₹7,573.
Among other oilseed crops, the area under groundnut is lower at 0.87 lh (1.37 lh a year ago) as also that of safflower (0.07 lh vs 0.15 lh), sunflower (0.10 lh vs 0.56 lh) and sesamum (0.01 lh vs 0.02 lh).
Prices below MSP
The area under chana (gram), the major rabi pulse crop, has gained 10 per cent at 22.08 lh against 19.86 lh a year ago. The rise comes despite prices ruling below the MSP of ₹5,320 a quintal.
Rajasthan has taken the lead in the rise in the area under chana with 31.92 lh being covered, followed by Karnataka (4.89 lh) and Madhya Pradesh (3.79 lh). Farmers were expected to shift from chana this year but as of now, that does not seem to be happening.
Among other pulses crops, the area under lentils is lower at 2.04 lh (2.3 lh). Urad (black matpe) coverage is up at 0.92 lh (0.87 lh), while moong’s acreage is down a tad at 0.07 lh (0.09 lh).
The coverage of jowar, which accounts for 54 per cent of the total rabi coarse cereals acreage, trails this year at 4.77 lh (5.27 lh), while the area under maize, the other major rabi coarse cereal crop making up 34 per cent of the coverage, is down at 1.57 lh (2.76 lh).
Karnataka and Maharashtra lead the acreage in the pulses crops, followed by Tamil Nadu.
This year, rabi crops could gain from soil moisture, which has been enriched by a 41 per cent excess rainfall across the country since October 1, and the reservoir storage levels rising to 156.821 billion cubic metres — higher than the last 10 year’s average.