The first meeting early next week of the Empowered Group of Ministers on Drought, with Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar as the new chairman, will take a decision on extending diesel subsidy to farmers in the northwest where monsoon is deficient by 40 per cent.

With low levels in reservoirs, farmers in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh are having to use excessive diesel and power to pump ground water to keep their paddy crop alive. After the deficient rains of 2009, the Centre gave diesel subsidy to Bihar and Tamil Nadu.

Loan rescheduling

The meeting will look at the progress of the southwest monsoon, kharif sowing, foodgrains stocks, prices and demands from States to mitigate the effects of deficient rain. The meeting may also consider rescheduling loans taken by farmers in distressed areas.

After an inter-ministerial meeting of the Crop and Weather Watch Group on Friday, a senior official said that unless the monsoon revived soon, the unsown area of coarse cereals and pulses would be lost for the season, impacting production.

Sowing of kharif paddy, coarse cereals, pulses, oilseeds and cotton continues to lag in the face of monsoon deficiency in parts of the country. The total area under kharif crops is low by 73.76 lakh hectares compared to last year and short by 55.93 lakh hectares if compared to a “normal year.”

Agriculture Secretary Ashish Bahuguna told journalists here that the situation remained worrisome in parts of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat.

If rain does not revive then sowing of pulses and coarse cereals in western Rajasthan will be hit. Already central Maharashtra is under stress and sowing of groundnut has suffered in Karnataka and Gujarat.

Fodder cultivation

The Ministry has urged the Water Resources Ministry to allow milk unions to sow fodder in the command areas of dams that have low water levels but high moisture.

“There is no fodder shortage yet. If at all, it may be felt later,” he said.

The storage levels in reservoirs was picking up, he said, adding it was better than in 2009 when the country suffered drought in some areas.

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