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Crop situation far from satisfactory

By Surinder Sud in New Delhi
August 24, 2004 10:58 IST
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Thanks to the monsoon remaining benevolent in most areas, the rainfall as well as the agricultural scenario has improved further in the past week to 10 days.

However, the crop situation is far from satisfactory in several pockets, especially in west Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, west Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra.

There are also reports of crop damage due to excessive rainfall in Gujarat and floods in Assam and Bihar. However, the sowing of most crops, barring cotton, maize and oilseeds, is still lagging behind last year's corresponding position.

The water level in major reservoirs has risen by about 11 per cent in one week, improving prospects of irrigation as well as hydel power production.

The total storage in 71 major reservoirs on August 18 was 69.82 billion cubic metres, against 55.74 bcm a week ago. However, it is still about 5 per cent short of the last ten years' average, though about 25 per cent above the last year's level.

But two reservoirs in Andhra Pradesh (Somsila and Sriramsagar) still have practically no utilisable water. Nine others have less than 10 per cent storage.

These include Isapur, Bhima (Ujjani) and Yeldari in Maharashtra, Sabarmati and Dantiwada in Gujarat, Nagarjuna Sagar in Andhra Pradesh, Tilaiya in Jharkhand and Rana Pratap Sagar in Rajasthan.

The deficiency in the cumulative monsoon rainfall till August 18 was only 7 per cent. Of the total 36 meteorological sub-divisions, 28 had normal rainfall and eight deficient (over 20 per cent below normal).

The maximum deficiency was in west Uttar Pradesh (-48 per cent), followed by Himachal Pradesh (-40 per cent), Punjab (-31 per cent). Jharkhand (-28 per cent), Haryana and western Rajasthan (-25 per cent each) and Vidharba and Tamil Nadu-Pondicherry (-21 per cent each).

Of the total 524 districts, 84 or 16 per cent have received excess rainfall and 231 or 45 per cent normal rainfall.

On the other hand, 172 districts or 33 per cent still fall in the deficient category, while other 31 or 6 per cent are in scanty rainfall category. Thus, on the whole, about 61 per cent districts have received normal showers and remaining 39 per cent inadequate rainfall.

As the crop sowing is concerned, the pace has picked up considerably of late. The total area sown so far has already exceeded the last year's comparative position in the case of cotton, maize and oilseeds.

The deficiency in paddy sowing is also gradually being reduced. However, the area planted with sugarcane, coarse cereals and pulses is perceptibly short of last year's level.

The sugarcane acreage this year is estimated at only 37.5 million hectares, against normal 43 million hectares and last year's 46.4 million hectares.

This marks an area reduction of nearly 9 per cent. Major states, where cane acreage has declined include Maharashtra, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and the southern sugar belt of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

Jute and mesta acreage has declined by about a lakh hectares -- about 700,000 hectares this year, against 820,000 hectares last year. The crop is already close to harvesting stage. In fact, the harvesting has already begun in parts of Assam.

The oilseed area is estimated at around 16 million hectares, against 14.5 million hectares last year, though the standing groundnut crop in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat is reported to have started yellowing due to excessive rains.

Pulses sowing is still lagging behind last year though indications are that the total area might actually go up this year as part of the cereal acreage is likely to shift to these crops due to delayed rains.
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Surinder Sud in New Delhi

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