With the southwest monsoon playing truant in northeast and central India, the Centre has asked States to be ready with alternate crops that are hardy, and can withstand dry conditions.
There are reports that in some north-western states, farmers have slowed down sowing, in the hope that the monsoon will arrive or revive in the first week of July.
So far, 74 per cent of the country has received deficient rain since the onset of southwest monsoon on June 5, raising serious concerns in the farming community.
Already, there is apprehension that there will be a shortfall in kharif oilseeds, coarse cereals, pulses, and cotton. Even sugarcane may be hit in parts of the country. Parts of Karnataka have reported wilting of oilseed crops.
Minister Sharad Pawar, who is closely monitoring the situation, has asked Karnataka and Maharashtra to be ready to put into action Contingency Plans, if the monsoon doesn’t revive early next month.
In its Advisory issued to the states, the Centre has asked states that have been worst-hit, such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and parts of Karnataka and Maharashtra, to arrange for alternate seeds, and for their quick movement.
Farmers in some irrigated areas like Punjab and Haryana have been advised to give protective irrigation to paddy nurseries. Sowing of paddy is late in picking up in the two states.
However, paddy cultivation is normal in the north-eastern region that is receiving good rain.
However, ‘to sow or not to sow’ is the dilemma being faced by farmers in parts of northwest, central, and southern India that are facing deficient monsoon.
According to the IMD forecast for the revival of monsoon in July, the Agriculture Ministry has told states they needn’t panic.
There is still time for sowing coarse cereals and short-duration variety of pulses. Normally, sowing is done through July till early August, but the concern is to water the crop that has already been sown. Admitting to “concern building up”, senior officials of the Ministry said consumption of phosphatic and potassium fertilisers has come down by approximately 28 per cent.
Cultivation of crops such as paddy, pulses, and oilseeds, which normally begins from April, hasn’t gained momentum. Even pre-monsoon showers were scanty this year.
A meeting of the inter-ministerial Crop and Weather Watch Group noted that sowing of rice, coarse cereals, pulses and oilseeds is lagging this year compared to previous years.