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Warm winter, dry soil hit rabi (winter) crops

Last modified January 11, 2016 10:41

Mint. New Delhi, 10 January 2016.

A warm winter preceded by a drought has played spoilsport for sowing of winter crops such as wheat, pulses and oilseeds. Data released by the farm ministry show that rabi (winter) crops have been planted so far in 56.5 million hectares, 3% lower than the 58.2 million hectares sown by this time last year. Worryingly, as the window for planting is nearing an end, tracts across many states may remain unplanted this winter. Further, for the primary rabi crop of wheat, late sowing and warmer temperatures could mean a loss in yield.

The data on planting shows that wheat has been planted so far in 28.2 million hectares, nearly 6% lower than the 29.9 million hectares sown by this time last year. While seasonal area under the wheat crop is 30 million hectares, together with pulses, oilseeds and coarse grains the total rabi area is about 63 million hectares. Planting of winter crops starts by October and harvesting begins from January. The data further show that planting is lower in states such as Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh that grow the cereal crop under rain-fed conditions in some areas. For instance, about 9.1 million hectares were planted in Uttar Pradesh till 7 January, the lowest for any year since 2010. By this time last year, 9.7 million hectares had been planted in the state. Similarly, for Madhya Pradesh, planting is at its lowest since 2011. If wheat yields are affected this year, it will be the second consecutive year of meagre harvest. Unseasonal rains just ahead of the spring harvest in March and April of 2015 led to a 7% decline in wheat pro duction (in 2014-15), compared with the previous year. However, allaying fears of a loss in wheat yield, agriculture secretary Siraj Hussain said there wan’t any reason for panic. “We hope in the next 2-3 days, the temperature will come down,” he said, adding that the government was closely monitoring the situation.

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