India’s Monsoon Turnaround Revives Crop Sowing
Water pours down an irrigation channel from a groundwater pump and well next to a field of rice growing on farmland in Uttar Pradesh, India. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

India’s Monsoon Turnaround Revives Crop Sowing

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A turnabout in India’s monsoon has helped offset the rain deficit, providing relief to farmers who have begun crop sowing.

21 out of the country’s 36 sub-divisions had received “normal” rainfall by Aug. 8, according to the India Meteorological Department. Less than a month ago, more than half of the sub-divisions had received deficient rainfall, while 16 had received “normal” rains.

This comes as a partial reprieve as the nation’s largest livelihood provider depends on rainfall. A delayed monsoon hampers crop sowing and reduces yields.

India’s Monsoon Turnaround Revives Crop Sowing

For the country as a whole, cumulative rainfall during this year’s monsoon season was 5 percent below the long-period average as on Aug. 8. The rainfall was 16 percent below the LPA till July 17.

The pickup in the monsoon season has bridged the sowing gap to some extent. Even though the total Kharif or monsoon crop acreage is 6.6 percent lower than a year-ago period, it has nearly doubled to 78.9 million hectares, as of Aug. 2. That compares with 41.3 million hectares till July 12 reported by Kotak Institutional Equities Research.

Pulses, which had seen a 25 percent dip in its total acreage to 3.4 million hectares as of July 12, are now 7.6 percent lower at 10.5 million hectares.

“The kharif season, which began on a slow note, seems to have gained pace after the late pick up in monsoon—in July. The revival in monsoon after a dry June has helped farmers accelerate sowing, bringing it closer to last year’s level,” Edelweiss Research said in a report.

The late onset of monsoon in Kerala coupled with threat of El Nino led to a delay in sowing. However, the pick up in monsoon in July helped to bridge the gap.
Edelweiss Research

Yet, the delayed onset of monsoon still led to problems for farmers. “Water availability issues in key agrarian states have engendered the shift away from crops such as paddy,” Edelweiss noted. It added that the slow spread of monsoon even prompted some state governments to ask farmers to defer sowing.

The country’s reservoir levels too remained in deficit but improved sharply over last week. Rivers including Indus, Godavari, and Narmada were in surplus while Ganga, Kaveri, Krishna, and Mahanadi were in deficit.

Going forward, if the pace of rainfall activity sustains through August, there is a likelihood that there could only be a “minor miss” in monsoon vis-a-vis IMD’s forecast of a 4 percent deficiency, according to a Yes Bank Ltd. report. Any shortfall, however, will likely weigh on consumption demand by impacting agricultural production and farmer incomes, it said.

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