Overall sowing of kharif crops is higher this season so far than in a normal year, but still there is disquiet in the Agriculture Ministry over the 37 per cent deficiency in the southwest monsoon in East and North-East India. Rainfall was ‘scanty’ in Bihar and Jharkhand in the week ending July 24.

Experts caution against hasty comparisons with last year’s kharif cultivation as there was drought in parts of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Gujarat at this time. Comparisons of kharif sowing, therefore, should be with a normal year in the corresponding week to get a correct picture of where the country stands in terms of plantations.

This season, of the total 36 meteorological divisions in the country, monsoon is deficient over seven. These include Jharkhand, Bihar, Gangetic West Bengal, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi and the entire north-east (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura). If the situation continues it might hit paddy cultivation. Last week rainfall was scanty in Bihar and Jharkhand. As per the India Meteorological Department, between June 1 and July 24, in area-wise distribution, 83 per cent area of the country has received excess/normal rainfall, while 17 per cent area is so far deficient. In East and North-East, there is a 37 per cent departure from normal.

Senior Agriculture Ministry officials who reviewed the situation on Friday said they would still wait and watch the situation till the sowing period ends towards the end of August.

If one goes by statistics, then the total area under kharif (paddy) cultivation so far is 747.78 lakh hectares which is higher by 67.02 lakh hectares if compared with the normal of a corresponding week. But for coarse cereals, sowing of rice, pulses, oilseeds, sugarcane, cotton, jute and mesta are higher this year than a normal week in the corresponding period.

Yet there are concerns about paddy sowing being impacted in parts of Jharkhand, Bihar, Gangetic West Bengal, Haryana and Chandigarh and the northeast. Last season, the kharif production was lower by about 6 million tonnes on account of drought in parts of the country.

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