An 8% rainfall deficit in July – bang in the middle of the crucial monsoon season – has hampered sowing of key kharif crops such as pulses, cereals and oilseeds across the country, official data showed on Friday.
The lull – chiefly due to a three-week stagnant spell ending in the second week of July – came after a blistering start to the monsoon in June, which saw 10% surplus rainfall across the country.
Though the rain deficit is only 1% lower cumulatively from the start of the season, it has had the effect of delaying the onset of rainfall across the north, central and eastern parts of the country.
Sowing of kharif crops – which usually starts by the end of June – has lagged, with the sown acreage falling to 721.4 lakh hectares, from 791.8 lakh hectares in the same period last year, a 9% drop.
The slide for pulses is -10.1%, while it has so far been -15.5% for cereals and -10.4% for oilseeds. The area sown under paddy has dipped by 6.9%, while it is -7.7% for cotton.
Kharif crops are usually water-intensive and are sown during the monsoon season, while rabi crops are cultivated between October and April.
South India received surplus rainfall in July, with heavy downpours seen across Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu, resulting in 30% above-normal rainfall, data from the India Meteorological Department showed. Distribution, however, remained erratic, with Kerala still struggling with a 27% rainfall deficit at the season’s halfway mark.
Overall, 19% of India area-wise received below-normal rainfall since June 1.
“States that contribute to a significant acreage of oilseeds and pulses like Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh were under water stress as on July 14, with rainfall deficit of 36%, 24% and 17%, respectively,” said Hetal Gandhi, director,
“However, from a paddy perspective, in major paddy growing states like Punjab, UP, West Bengal and Haryana, monsoon is in the normal zone, which bodes well for the crop,” Gandhi added.
Typically, July fills in for a third of the total monsoon rainfall of the entire season, and is considered important for timely sowing of crops.
Revival on the horizon
IMD has forecast that rainfall will pick up gradually in August across north India, which has just witnessed a revival due to favourable meteorological conditions. There will also be some respite in the central and eastern regions in the coming week, IMD said, with forecasts of heavy showers ranging from Maharashtra to Odisha.
The South is, however, expected to receive less rain than it did between June and July.