Poor monsoon rain to hit farm growth

Last Updated: Fri, Feb 08, 2013 04:12 hrs

Uneven rain during the kharif season would, it is estimated, pull down India’s agriculture and allied sector growth to a three-year low of 1.8 per cent during 2012-13, against last year’s 3.6 per cent.

According to advance estimates released by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) today, foodgrain production in 2012-13 was expected to fall by 2.8 per cent against growth of 5.2 per cent in the previous year. Cotton and sugarcane output was projected to decline by four per cent and 6.5 per cent, respectively.

“There are two main reasons for this slump when compared with last year’s numbers,” P K Joshi, South Asia director of the International Food Policy Research Institute, told Business Standard. “The first is drought and delayed rainfall in many parts of the country during the kharif season.” Also, he said, there was “high growth” of 3.6 per cent last year, so there had to be some base effect.

He said the impact could have been worse had the rains not revived during the later half of the four-month southwest monsoon season, which began in June.

The CSO estimated production of fruits and vegetables would rise 3.5 per cent in 2012-13 against 5.1 per cent in the previous year. “The slow growth in horticultural crops as compared to last year’s could have a pronounced impact on prices, which is already being felt in onions,” another expert said.

The southwest monsoon, lifeline of Indian agriculture, was below normal, at 92 per cent of the long period average (LPA), in 2012. Rain between 95 and 100 per cent of the LPA, the average rainfall recorded in the past 50 years and estimated at 89 centimetres, is considered normal.

Though the rains began on a brisk note, these faltered during the middle of the season, leading to a fall in output of rice, coarse cereals, pulses and oilseeds. However, many experts said the situation would be salvaged to some extent because rabi farm production was expected to be good. There is already talk of wheat production in 2013-14 being around last year’s record of 94 million tonnes.

“This year’s total foodgrain production is expected to be around 250 mt, less than last year’s revised estimate of 259 mt,” Union agriculture secretary Ashish Bahuguna said recently.

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