The government’s expectation of the rabi wheat crop making good the shortfall in drought-affected kharif season received a set-back with a lower acreage in wheat, coarse cereals and oilseeds this season.

Sowing of pulses, however, is 6.2 per cent higher than last year in the corresponding period. The sowing period ends around January 15.

The sowing of rabi wheat, coarse cereals and oilseeds has fallen behind last year and this does not augur well for the country which is already reeling under high prices of atta, sugar, pulses and oilseeds.

Highly placed sources in the Agriculture Ministry said that wheat acreage was lagging in comparison to last year on account of delayed sowing in Uttar Pradesh. The Central government is hopeful that once sowing in Uttar Pradesh picks up by the end of the sowing season in mid-January, wheat acreage will be at least equal to last year’s level.

Decline in rainfall

The shortfall in mustard and jowar is attributed to dry weather conditions in Rajasthan. Although maize sowing will be higher, early indications point to a lower oilseeds output this rabi. Already the Central Water Commission has set the alarm bells ringing about less than normal storage levels in reservoirs in Punjab, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh reservoirs. The Indus basin is reported to be deficient this season on account of 22 per cent decline in southwest monsoon rains.

The area sown under wheat so far is 268.50 lakh hectares (ha) compared to 272.54 lakh ha this time last year. The government was hoping to raise the rabi wheat area by 5 lakh ha this season, but this has not happened.

The area under oilseeds is 84.23 lakh ha as against 90.01 lakh ha last year marking a decline of 6.8 per cent. While the area under groundnut is almost same as last year, the rapeseed and mustard acreage is lower by 2.22 lakh ha and that of sunflower has shown a decline of 2.45 lakh ha over last year.

The area under coarse cereals is 61.84 lakh ha as against 65.41 lakh ha last year. While sowing in maize and barley is slightly higher than last year, the area under jowar is lower by 9.4 per cent. Sowing in jowar this year is on 44.27 lakh ha compared to 48.90 lakh ha last year in the corresponding period.

Significantly, all pulses have shown a higher acreage -- even if marginal -- as in urad and moong. The area under gram is 84.38 lakh ha as against 81.04 last year. Urad acreage is 6.76 lakh ha compared to 5.11 lakh ha last year and moong is sown on 4.68 lakh ha as against 3.79 lakh ha last year in the corresponding period.

Rabi rice sowing is higher -- it is 6.38 lakh ha this year compared to 5.23 lakh ha last year.

The good news is that the procurement of paddy in terms of rice has marginally crossed last year’s levels. As against 165.14 lakh tonnes procured this marketing season, 165 lakh tonnes were procured last year in the corresponding period. Punjab has contributed 92.52 lakh tonnes followed by Haryana (18.04 lakh tonnes), Uttar Pradesh (15.75 lakh tonnes), Chattisgarh (14.69 lakh tonnes) and Andhra Pradesh (11.45 lakh tonnes).

Other States that have contributed to the Central pool are Orissa, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Kerala, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Chandigarh and Karnataka.