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Slow progress in rainfall hits crops

Surinder Sud in New Delhi | July 13, 2004 10:55 IST

All has not been well with the south-west monsoon so far. Though it arrived about two weeks ahead of schedule, there have already been at least three breaks in the rainfall.

Besides, neither its onward progress nor the distribution of rainfall has been too satisfactory. What is most worrisome is the lack of rainfall in the agriculturally crucial month of July.

Consequently, the recharging of the reservoirs has slowed down and the crop planting is lagging behind normal schedule in many parts of the country. At places, the farmers had to re-sow the crops, incurring heavy losses and running the risk of poor yields.

The first lull in the rains came between the last week of May and the first week of June, after a rather early onset of the monsoon on May 18. This was followed by a brief period of good monsoon activity, before it entered the second subdued phase between June 17 and July 3.

However, only after a couple of days of further advance into the northern states, the monsoon has again turned week since July 5. As a result, part of Punjab, Haryana and west Rajasthan are still to be covered by the monsoon this year.

According to meteorologists, the revival of the monsoon in the north-west may take three to four days, though the revival has already begun elsewhere, especially in the peninsula (barring Maharashtra).

Areas like Telegana and Rayalaseema, which had 46 to 50 per cent deficiency, have begun getting rains. The other rain-deficient areas include whole of Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, west-Uttar Pradesh, west-Madhya Pradesh, Vidarbha and Jharkhand.

Statistically, the total rainfall in the month of June was 2 per cent below normal. But the lack of rains in July in most part of the country has pushed up the deficiency to over 10 per cent by now.

As many as 12 of the total 36 meteorological subdivisions fall in the deficient rainfall category, against only four subdivisions last year.

As a result, the water storage in the 71 major reservoirs, which had risen above the 10-year average level by the third week of June fell to 6 per cent below the July 2 level.

The total storage on this date was 24.83 billion cubic metres, which is more than last year's corresponding position by 6.92 billion cubic metres, but short of 10-year average by 1.7 billion cubic metres. Six reservoirs (two each in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra and one each in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh) have no utilisable water.

The sowing of almost all crops, barring pulses, has been adversely affected. Paddy, the most important kharif cereal, has been planted on only 4.78 million hectares, against 5.2 million hectares last year.

Coarse cereals, which are almost entirely rain-dependent crops, have been hit even harder. So far, only 6.47 million hectares have been covered under the crops like maize, jowar and bajra, against nearly 8 million hectares planted last year till this time.

Among the commercial crops, sowing of oilseeds, including soyabean and groundnut, has been disrupted in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. The area under pulses is marginally up, notably because of higher plantings in Haryana after good pre-monsoon showers.

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