A day laborer carries a bundle of harvested sugercane in Taloda, Maharashtra, India (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)  

India Set for Record Harvest as Timely Rainfall Boosts Crops

(Bloomberg) -- India is set for record production of food grain this year after timely monsoon rain encouraged farmers to plant rice, corn and pulses across a larger area, Farm Minister Radha Mohan Singh said.

The government has set a food grain harvest target of 270.1 million metric tons for the crop year that began on July 1, compared with 252.2 million tons a year earlier, Singh said in New Delhi on Thursday. The area under monsoon-sown crops climbed to 105.45 million hectares (260.6 million acres) as of Sept. 9, compared with 101.24 million hectares a year earlier, according to Agriculture Ministry data.

India is counting on an increase in production of lentils, vegetables and grains to curb food inflation after the first back-to-back shortfall in monsoon rainfall in three decades ravaged crops and widened a shortage of essential commodities. Though precipitation has been below average this year as well, crops such as rice, corn, peanuts and pulses have benefited from well distributed rains, according to S.K. Pattanayak, agriculture secretary. An increase in water level in reservoirs will boost winter-sown crops such as wheat and mustard, he said.

“We are expecting bumper production this year,” Pattanayak said in New Delhi on Thursday. “Good distribution of rain, good quality seeds and timely application of fertilizers and efforts put in by farmers will give good results.”

Below Normal

Even though rainfall has been 5 percent below normal between June 1 and Sept. 14, 86 percent of the country received normal to excess showers, according to the India Meteorological Department. The monsoon affects both summer and winter crop sowing in the South Asian nation and waters more than half of all farmland. Rainfall was 14 percent below a 50-year average in 2015, following a 12 percent shortfall in 2014, data from the meteorological department show.

“Barring a few pockets here and there, overall it will be a good crop year,” Prerana Desai, vice president for research at Edelweiss Agri Services & Credit, said by phone from Mumbai. “Rain distribution has been good and the water level in the reservoirs will be sufficient for the winter crops. Most of the crops will have better production on good rainfall and improved yields.”
Production of monsoon-sown pulses may total 8.22 million tons, up 48 percent from 5.54 million tons a year earlier, the farm ministry said. Residual moisture in the soil will boost area under winter-sown pulses, it said.

India’s 91 main reservoirs held 108.1 billion cubic meters of water as of Sept. 8, up 17% from 92.32 billion cubic meters same time year earlier, according to the Central Water Commission. While the monsoon retreated from some parts of west Rajasthan state, western and central regions will get fairly widespread rains in the coming days, the state forecaster said on Thursday.