As the rabi sowing season nears its end, acreage of most crops, barring wheat, is almost the same as last year, raising hopes that if the weather remains benign in the next few months, India could have a bumper rabi harvest.
The acreage under wheat, which is marginally down compared with last year, as on Thursday is not likely to have much impact on the output as the area in the four major wheat growing states — Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh — is almost same as last year. The shortfall in acreage is only in Maharashtra, which is not a big producer of wheat.
According to the latest government data, wheat has been sown in around 27.27 million hectares as on December 27, just 1.45 per cent less than last year. The acreage is almost 1 million hectares more than the normal area (average of last five years). “As of now, sowing of wheat is normal in almost all parts of the country, but the final output will depend on the weather in the next few months,” a senior government official said.
Uniform winter with some moisture in the air is considered ideal for growth of wheat crop.
Among other crops, pulses have been sown in around 13.25 million hectares till Thursday, just 1.2 per cent less than the area covered during the same period last year. Oilseeds have been sown in around 7.88 million hectares, 98,000 hectares more than last year, mainly due to good mustard sowing.
Coarse cereals have been sown in around 5.62 million hectares till Thursday, almost 1.92 per cent more than the corresponding period of last year. The only let-down has been in rabi rice, which has been planted in around 187,000 hectares as on December 27, almost 38 per cent less than last year because of poor northwest monsoon rains in south. The India Meteorological Department said northwest rains have been 19 per cent below normal till December 19, since October.
This could hurt any plans to push up India’s total rice production in 2012-13 as paddy production during the previous kharif season is also expected to be around 6.5 per cent less than 2011-12.
However, it is unlikely to have any impact on rice prices as the government has ample stocks in its warehouses to meet any shortfall. As on December 1, the rice stocks in the central pool were estimated to be around 30.60 million tonnes (mt) against the requirement of 12.8 mt.
In total, rabi crops have been planted in around 54.22 million hectares, just 0.8 per cent less than last year.