The optimism of policy makers that an increase in the rabi crop output in 2012-13 would compensate the loss of kharif production due to monsoon delay might be dashed, as a cold wave is taking a toll.
Sowing has risen 2.6 per cent but even so, overall agricultural output this year might be lower than last year due tothe impact of the cold on pulses, vegetables and oilseeds. However, wheat output might get a boost due to the presence of moisture in the weather.
While official agencies have just begun assessing the possible damage, experts estimate not less than five to 10 per cent impact due to severe cold in major producing states. The lowest temperature in Delhi was 1.9 degrees Celsius a couple of days before. The northeastern states have also witnessed a record low this year, resulting in frosting on plants.
“We came to know only this morning that mustard seed plants have got damaged due to frost in Rajasthan. We are sending teams to various regions of the state and collating data from other states, as well as assessing the actual quantum of damage,” said Dr J S Chauhan, director, directorate of rapeseed-mustard research, Bharatpur (Rajasthan).
Union finance minister P Chidambaram, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and consumer affairs minister K V Thomas had on various occasions indicated the rabi crop output would compensate the loss in kharif. So did the Reserve Bank of India’s December review.
According to the First Advance Estimates, total foodgrain production during the kharif season was 117.18 million tonnes, about nine per cent lower from the 129.94 mt in the corresponding season last year.
Output of oilseeds was down nine per cent at 187.83 mt in the kharif season of 2012-13, year-on-year.
The ministry of agriculture’s report on rabi sowing dated December 14 had estimated a 2.6 per cent increase in rabi crop sowing area, at 48.2 million hectares.
“Cold waves are good for wheat and bad for other rabi crops. Sustained cold for a longer period does affect oilseeds and pulses. Hence, crop damage cannot be ruled out this season, due to a record low in temperature. However, we would come to know the magnitude only some time in February,” said Madan Sabnavis, chief economist, CARE Ratings.
Pravin Dongre, chief executive officer of Glencore Grain India, a multinational grain procurement and bulk trader, said: “There is no report of crop damage in the rabi season.”
Agri commodities have already started reacting to apprehension of crop damage. The prices of coriander, chilli, mustard seed, pepper and refined soya oil rose a little over three per cent today on the National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange.
These commodities have risen by five to seven per cent over the past week.
“Commodity prices have risen over the last few days due to the extreme winter conditions. The cold wave in the northern part has affected the standing crop in Rajasthan," said Naveen Mathur, associate director with Angel Broking. "Although the area covered under major rabi crops like wheat, mustard seed and chana is higher so far, the ultimate output will depend on weather conditions in the coming weeks.”
In addition to major crops, cold waves are unfavourable for fruits and vegetables as well.