Despite deficient rains, sowing of paddy, the key Kharif crop, has progressed well with the paddy crop cultivation area increasing marginally by over two per cent to 46.46 lakh hectare till June.

Farmers undertake planting of paddy and other crops in the Kharif season (summer) with the onset of South West Monsoon and continue till September.

According to the sowing data released by the Agriculture Ministry, farmers are estimated to have sown paddy in an area of about 46.46 lakh hectare till June, against 45.43 lakh hectare in the same period last year.

The maximum increase in paddy acreage was seen in Punjab, where farmers using irrigation facility have been able to sow the crop in 15.23 lakh hectare so far against 15.79 lakh hectare in the corresponding period last year.

Similarly, paddy area has risen in Assam to 6.89 lakh hectare (from 4.81 lakh hectare) and in West Bengal to 6.06 lakh hectare (from 5.20 lakh hectare) due to good rains.

The monsoon rains though started in time on May 31 have not advanced since June 18 when they covered half of the country. Indian Meteorological Department says the annual rains have been 16 per cent below normal for this season, mostly due to sluggish progress.

In one of the top paddy growing states, Uttar Pradesh paddy acreage has more than doubled from 44,000 thousand hectares last year to 95,000 hectare. However, in Andra Pradesh, another top paddy growing state, acreage declined sharply from 1.28 lakh hectares to 60,000 hectares.

As regards to other crops, area under jowar planting has increased slightly to 4.87 lakh hectare so far, compared to 4.12 lakh hectare in the year-ago period.

Similarly area under sugarcane has increased to 47.37 lakh hectare (from 41.79 lakh hectare) and cotton has increased to 43.68 lakh hectare (from 29.17 lakh hectare) in the review period. While area sown to pulses is lower at 5.15 lakh hectare as of now, as compared with 5.18 lakh hectare in the year-ago period.

Agriculture Ministry has said that the correct picture of the sowing would be available by July 15. Monsoon rains are crucial during the Kharif season because over 40 per cent of 43 million hectare of paddy area is rainfed.