Though agriculture ministry officials are confident of a bumper harvest due to record increase in kharif acreage, experts and farmers said the on-ground situation in some crops is not that encouraging as incessant rains since the last few weeks and pest attack could impact the final yield.
Sowing of kharif crops touched an all-time high area of 108.22 million hectares during the week ended August 28, raising hopes of a bumper harvest in excess of 149 million tonnes during the season.
The last all-time high kharif acreage was in the kharif season of 2016, at 107.57 million hectares.
A good kharif output could help tame overall retail inflation within the Reserve bank of India’s threshold band of 2-6 per cent in the months to come. Retail inflation since April has been hovering at 7 per cent largely due to high food prices.
A question mark also remains on the demand to absorb this surplus production, and unless it picks up strongly in the months to come crop prices might collapse, hurting farmers immensely.
Meanwhile, the area data showed that this year’s acreage of 108.22 million hectares is so far about 7.15 per cent more than that under kharif crops last year and 1.5 per cent beyond the average acreage of the past five years.
“Sowing of rice is still continuing in some parts, while sowing of pulses, coarse cereals, bajra and oilseeds is almost over. We are confident that with so much acreage, over total foodgrains production in 2020-21 will cross the targeted 298.32 million tonnes,” Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said in a statement.
Though agriculture ministry officials are confident of a bumper harvest due to record increase in kharif acreage, experts and farmers said the on-ground situation in some crops is not that encouraging as incessant rains since the last few weeks and pest attack could impact the final yield particularly in early sown varieties.
Like in Madhya Pradesh, state officials and traders are now saying that the main kharif crop of soybean could be at least 10-15 per cent less than last year due to the massive stem fly attack.
Similarly, in some parts of central and western India, the incessant rains since the early August could impact the final yield of pulses and oilseeds crops in those parts where the crop is submerged for an abnormally longer duration of time.
Meanwhile, according to a preliminary assessment by the Indore-based Soybean Processors Association of India (SOPA), the attack by pests such as stem fly might lead to 10-12 per cent drop in production in the state, but much will depend on the weather in the coming weeks.
SOPA based its assessment on a survey conducted recently. It said the most affected districts are Indore, Dewas, Ujjain, Dhar, Sehore, Harda, Shajapur, Mandsaur and Neemuch in MP, although some damage is seen at other places also.
Last week, SOPA estimated that India's soybean production could jump by 32per cent in 2020 to 12.25 million tonnes from a year earlier due to higher area under the oilseed and increased yields on ample monsoon rainfall.
For Madhya Pradesh, it had estimated a 11.5 per cent rise in production to 5.8 million tonnes in 2020.
After, the latest announcement, the actual production in 2020 could be much near last year’s level 5.2 million tonnes in MP.
Though farmers and agriculture department officials have fanned out in the fields to control the pests, scientists said it is very difficult to revive the crop in those parts where the stem fly pest has already entered the shoot.
Stem fly usually attacks if there is a long break in monsoon. Farmers said the sudden break in rains in July after the strong onset and progress in June has created perfect breeding grounds for the pest.
“The stem fly attack in some soybean crop in Madhya Pradesh is among the severest in recent times and is largely due to sudden drop in moisture levels in the soil in the crucial growth month of July,” J K Kanojia, head of Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Sehore (MP) told Business Standard.
The southwest monsoon in 2020 till August 28 is almost nine per cent more than normal. The rains, which were nearly 10 per cent below normal in July, picked up pace strongly thereafter and till a few weeks back, August rains were 24 per cent above normal.