Even as the number of drought-hit districts has risen to 246 in 10 States, the Centre on Wednesday declared that rice production might decline by 10 million tonnes this kharif, following a shortfall of 5.7 million hectares in paddy sowing.

Some shortfall is also expected in oilseeds and sugarcane output because of the decline in acreage.

Announcing this at the Conference of State Food and Civil Supplies Ministers here, Union Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said the country had received 29 per cent less rainfall so far. “The focus is now on saving the standing crop and offsetting kharif losses in rabi.”

This is the first time the government has come out with the quantum of kharif production shortfall due to a deficient southwest monsoon. Madhya Pradesh is the 10th State which has declared some districts drought affected.

“Due to expected reduced production of rice, there could be pressure on availability and market price, Mr. Pawar said. The prices of pulses, sugar and vegetables had already registered a sharp increase, he admitted.

To minimise the impact on the poor sections, the government was considering increasing the percentage of levy sugar in the Public Distribution System.

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