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Kharif-Rabi Agricultural Output in 2012-13: Climate change taking a toll?

Major Indian cropping seasons are Kharif, Rabi and Zaid. Kharif crops are sown at the beginning of the south-west monsoon and harvested at the end of the south-west monsoon. These crops are water intensive in nature, thus fluctuations in weather bear a significant impact on its outcome. The sowing season starts from May and is completed by the month of July. The harvesting of these crops occurs during the months from September to October. Rabi Crops need relatively cool climate during the period of growth but warm climate during germination period and maturity phase. October to December is the sowing time and harvesting season starts from February and continues till April.  Besides the Kharif and Rabi crops another major variety is Zaid crops which are being raised throughout the year deploying artificial irrigation system.

According to reports, during FY 2012-13 at the onset of Kharif cultivation, the Cabinet committee on Economic Affairs approved the hike in Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) for major Kharif Crops in June 2012. The MSP of Paddy (Common) has been fixed at Rs.1250 per quintal and of Paddy (Grade A) at Rs.1280 per quintal, which represents an increase of Rs.170 per quintal over the last year's MSPs. The MSPs of Jowar (Hybrid) and Ragi have been raised to Rs.1500 per quintal providing an increase of Rs.520 and Rs.450 per quintal respectively. The MSPs of Bajra and Maize each have been raised by Rs.195 per quintal and fixed at Rs.1175 per quintal each. The MSP of Jowar (Maldandi) has also been raised by Rs.520 per quintal over the last year's MSP and fixed at Rs.1520 per quintal. The MSP of Urad has been raised from Rs.3300 per quintal to Rs.4300 per quintal. The MSPs of Groundnut-in-shell, Sunflowerseed, Sesamum and Nigerseed have been increased by Rs.1000, Rs.900, Rs.800 and Rs.600 per quintal over the last year’s MSPs and has been fixed at Rs.3700, Rs.3700, Rs.4200 and Rs.3500 per quintal, respectively. The MSPs of Soyabean (Black) and Soyabean (Yellow) have been increased by Rs.550 per quintal each over the last year’s MSPs and fixed at Rs.2200, Rs.2240 per quintal respectively. MSP of Cotton (Medium Staple) has been raised from Rs.2800 to Rs.3600 per quintal and Cotton (Long Staple) has been raised from Rs.3300 to Rs.3900. 

The purpose beside increase in MSP is multifarious- to incentivize and motivate farmers to increase acreage, maintain parity with sharp escalation in input costs, to keep pace with rising market prices of crops-though market price still exceeded the increased MSP. According to experts inclination of a farmer to go for a particular crop is not solely dependent on MSP. Indian agriculture till date is heavily dependent on the vagaries of weather. Monsoons, particularly in non-irrigated areas, play a crucial role in selection of crops. However, in addition to the overall monsoon rainfall, the even and timely distribution across regions and its withdrawal also plays crucial role in the determining the output of any agricultural commodity. The incidence of draught like conditions and delayed southwest monsoon during the early Kharif season in 2012 led to lower sowing of food grains. Although normal rains from late July over many crop producing areas provided some relief and allowed planting to take place, the late start of the planting period is expected to reduce crop yields. However, key rice growing areas showed significant cumulative rains deficits till mid August. The Ministry of Agriculture‘s first advance estimates of major crop production released in September 2012, indicated a steep 9.8% decline in foodgrain output in 2012-13. Grain production was pegged at 117.2 million tonnes by the MoA, after a record estimated kharif output of 129.9 million tonnes in 2011-12.Kharif output of coarse grains was expected to be the worst affected by the irregularities in monsoon showers. Coarse grain production was estimated to fall by 18.4% to 26.3 million tonnes in 2012-13.

As per the estimates, the shortfall in pulses production was expected to continue for the second consecutive fiscal in 2012-13. Production of kharif pulses would be limited to 5.3 million tonnes, lower by 14.6 %.

Production of rice - the most widely cultivated grain in the kharif season - was estimated to fall by 6.5 per cent to 85.6 million tonnes in 2012-13.

The output of kharif non-food crops is also expected to be adversely affected. Major oilseed production during the kharif season was estimated at 18.7 million tonnes. A fall of 9.7 % in 2012-13. Kharif groundnut production was also estimated to decline by a whopping 25 per cent to 38.2 million tonnes in 2012-13. Kharif sowings of groundnuts have been undertaken on 38.1 lakh hectares by 14 September 2012, lower by 11%. Cotton output was estimated to fall by over five per cent in 2012-13, after three consecutive years on an incline. Cotton production was pegged at 33.4 million bales.  Sugarcane output was estimated to dip by 6.2 per cent to 335.3 million tonnes in 2012-13.

According to the latest data released by the ministry of agriculture, the total rabi sown area stands at 56.7 million hectares in January 2013, compared with 56.019 million hectare at this time last year. Area under wheat, the main rabi crop, has gone up to 28.638 million hectare against 28.18 million hectare during the same time last year. In fact, the area under most rabi crops except rice and pulses has shown an increase in the year-on-year trend. Estimates indicate normal rabi harvest. It is likely to have a stabilizing effect on crop prices. The rabi output may even be able to make up for some of the shortfall in the kharif crops. The record breaking widespread rainfall in northwest India in first week of February has proven to be beneficial for wheat crop. The rainfall will sustain the much needed soil moisture in the root zone. Also it will help the farmers saving their inputs as they can now skip at least one irrigation cycle. The stormy weather has affected the crops as the gusty winds at 80kmph lodged the standing mustard crop in Ludhiana and other parts of Punjab as per the unofficial reports from Punjab Agricultural University. But in Rajasthan, the moderate showers in last few days are expected to benefit the standing rapeseed mustard crop as it may lead to increased oil recovery rate.

According to the ministry of Agriculture’s estimate, as of January 31, 2013, the area under cultivation was 2.7 per cent higher than that in the 2012-13 Rabi (winter) season. An area of 67.17 million hectares was brought under coverage of crops such as rice, wheat, cereals, pulses and oilseeds in the 2012-13 rabi season that started in October. The sowing of major Rabi crops so far this year is at par with the one last year. The sowing derived the benefit of late surge in monsoon (2012) rains that helped moisture retention in soil.

The two major crop season of FY 2012-13 reflects the influence, both positive and negative, of monsoons on the cropping system. Once again the need of well developed irrigation facility in a state is prominently visible. It is absolutely necessary as it helps in reduction of the dependency on the monsoon rainfall enormously. From the available data it is found that irrigation facility in the states of Punjab and Haryana covers 80% of the sown areas. However, the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat and Rajasthan which accounts for 14% of the total kharif crop depend significantly on the monsoon rainfall. There still exists a huge difference in the geographical distribution of the irrigation facility in the country. The government needs to invest more in the development of the irrigation facility of the states, to limit the probability of crop failures. The randomness in the crop outcome due to erratic nature of monsoon can be minimized significantly with effective and well distributed irrigation setup.

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Please note that this is the opinion of the author and is Not Certified by ICAR or any of its authorised agents.