As drought clutches almost half the country, areas under paddy, a major summer-sown crop, has suffered a 59-lakh hectare slump, while areas under oilseeds, too, witnessed a major decline.

Paddy has been planted over an area of 322.05 lakh hectares (LH) as of yesterday, compared with 381.33 LH in the year-ago period, according to the latest official data. Poor rains in parts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, among others, have resulted in the decrease of areas under paddy.

However, areas under pulses, prices of which have surged by up to 50 per cent to Rs 90 a kg in the last four months, have gone up by close to five LH at 98.25 LH.

Importantly, though the Kharif season is over, the government has used the sowing data to plan its strategy for the coming Rabi season.

The centre has now set a target of eight million tonnes of more food grain production in the Rabi season, including additional 3.5 million tonnes of rice, to make up for losses of summer-sown crops due to drought.

It has now targeted to achieve 124.18 million tonnes of food grains during the Rabi, which includes 82.58 million tonnes of wheat, up by two million tonnes from last year, Agriculture Commissioner N B Singh had said late last month.

The optimism seems to have come from an expected rise in sowing areas of 4.5 million hectares this winter.

However, the government has admitted that the drought has dented the prospects of many crops this Kharif.

Areas under oilseed crops dipped to 173.22 LH so far, compared with 182.97 LH a year earlier. Groundnut coverage slumped by over eight lakh hectares to 44.31 LH.

Coarse cereals acreage declined, though marginally, to 206.16 LH from 206.24 LH.

Late and scanty rainfall this Kharif has dented sowing of some crops in many parts of India. The country as a whole has witnessed 20 per cent less rainfall so far this season. Over 60 per cent of India’s total cultivable area depends on monsoon, while the rest is irrigated.

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