Pawar asks Maharashtra and Karnataka to be ready for any eventuality

Delayed and low intensity rain in parts of the northwest, central and southern regions has got the Agriculture Ministry worried and it is ready with a contingency plan. Minister Sharad Pawar has asked Maharashtra and Karnataka — parts of which are the worst-hit so far — to be prepared for any eventuality. The other affected States include Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

Strategies on alternative seeds, fertilizer and other inputs are being worked out even as kharif-sowing States have been asked to make a district-wise assessment of water stress and provide an update to the Centre.

Storage in dams

The assessment will include water availability. Lack of rain has already impacted the storage in major reservoirs. As against 38.147 billion cubic metres of storage in 84 important reservoirs, the level in the corresponding period on June 21 this year is 25.521 BCM.

Top Central government officials and experts are closely tracking the southwest monsoon, while the Agriculture Ministry has despatched teams to regions that face a crisis situation. Between June 14 and 20, 50 per cent of the country was deficient. Further, the India Meteorological Department said on June 22 that conditions were not conducive to the advance of monsoon in the next 4-5 days.

Spread of monsoon

“Monsoon is delayed in some parts by 10 to 12 days, so sowing is delayed. It is not the volume of rain but our actual concern is about the spatial and temporal spread of monsoon. If we get the rainfall as forecast by the IMD and it is well-distributed then there will be no problem,” Agriculture Secretary Ashish Bahuguna told The Hindu on Tuesday.

The Ministry is looking at the strategies adopted in previous years of delayed or deficient monsoon. “Different strategies will have to be adopted for different regions, if it comes to that,” Mr. Bahuguna said. Punjab and Haryana, for instance, are irrigated States and may require different interventions.

Nevertheless, kharif sowing of all crops is lagging behind, except sugarcane, compared to the cultivation in the same period last year. In south of Karnataka, sowing of coarse cereals and sugarcane is affected, while delay in rain in western Maharashtra has hit sowing of pulses and sugarcane.

A 10-day delay in monsoon in western Madhya Pradesh has adversely affected the sowing of soybean crop and pulses. Rain has not arrived yet in Gujarat and Rajasthan and if the delay continues for another week or 10 days then it will hit the groundnut crop and coarse cereals.

Crop experts say the window for sowing pulses is large and could be undertaken till August. If sowing of coarse cereals comes under stress, then those areas will have to plant pulses. For paddy, however, 70 per cent of nursery plantation is over.

Silver lining

A silver lining is that it is raining well in eastern and north-eastern parts of the country, including in Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, West Bengal, Assam as well as coastal Andhra Pradesh and the Konkan region.

Though there has been a delay of about a week in the arrival of monsoon in the northwest regions of Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, the sowing of paddy has been normal as this belt is irrigated.

July crucial

Farmers and experts are keeping their fingers crossed for the revival of monsoon in the next 10 days. July, it may be pointed, is crucial for the kharif crop, much of which is dependent on the rain god.

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