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Agri ministry braces for rainfall deficit, draws contingency plan

Posted by sonimanish Published on Tue, 2015-06-02 17:50

News article

Tue, 2015-06-02 (All day)
Mumbai, India

With the forecast of monsoon rainfalls revised downwards, the Ministry of Agriculture has directed states to be ready with contingency plan and start preparations for short duration crops this kharif season.

The Earth Science Minister Y S Choudhary forecast India's rainfalls to be lower at 88% of long term average from 92% earlier due to delay in its onset.

Following the deficit rainfalls forecast by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), the Ministry of Agriculture has already increased 15% seed availability of paddy and cereals. For pulses also, the government anticipates the need of re-sowing of seed in case of sprouts damage due to the scarcity of rainfalls.

"In our early season meetings with state secretaries, we asked states to increase seed availability at least by 15% barring soybean seed. Despite the delay in the monsoon rainfalls by a couple of days is not so alarming, we have asked states to begin with contingency plans with short duration crops wherever possible. Also, we started taking regular updates from the states," said J S Sandhu, Agriculture Commissioner, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Government of India.

As against total paddy seed requirement of 6.43 million tonnes, the government has estimated its availability of 7.38 million tonnes. Total cereals seed availability is also estimated higher at 8.82 million tonnes as against its requirement of 7.70 million tonnes. Availability of oilseeds for sowing is expected to remain, however, lower by around 14% at 4.21 million tonnes against its total requirement of 4.92 million tonnes.

Meanwhile, Hyderabad-based Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA) has identified 580 rainfalls sensitive districts across the country where the government is paying special attention.

"We have asked respective states to concentrate more on these rainfall sensitive districts for now. As of now, rainfalls forecasts and their slow advancement are not alarming. If the advancement is really slow for 15-20 days or rainfall distribution remains uneven then we would think of immediate contingency plan," said Sandhu.

Meanwhile, seed producing companies have also started preparations to meet any emergency situation.

"We are well prepared for meeting seed demand, although the last year was tough for the seed production of various crops due to a deficient Monsoon. Owing to a deficient Monsoon and increase in various input costs, the cost of production of seeds has gone up significantly. However, Seed prices would remain stable for most crops, given the current general scenario of agricultural produce prices being remaining relatively sluggish," said Raju Barwale, managing director of Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company Ltd (Mahyco).

He, however, expects the monsoon to be normal with no significant change in seed demand this year.

In agrarian states like Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, farmers have started shifting their crops from rainfall dependent paddy, soybean and cotton to less moisture needed crop like maize.

"The shift has been happening from paddy to maize, soya bean to maize, cotton to maize, from traditional millets like jowar and bajra to maize, from cotton to maize and even from jute to maize particularly in West Bengal," K Niranjan Kumar, governing council member of the NSAI, an umbrella organisation of over 300 member companies, told Business Standard.

Farmer was able to increase his income by shifting to maize compared to the traditional millets and also reducing the costs and the risk involved in the cultivation of paddy and commercial crops.

Despite the issues such as the increased operational costs for the seed companies and power and water shortage problems in the traditional seed growing regions, Kumar said, "we are confident that there will be not shortfall of seeds for any major crops grown across the country".

Industry sources said that, the seed production has been expanded into the new states such as MP and Odisha as compared to the heavy concentration of seed production activity in the regions of the undivided AP in the past.