Pace of rabi sowing picks up

by Janaki Samant

Area under rabi crops expanded by 8.9 per cent by 19 November 2021 compared to the area sown during the similar period a year ago. Sown area reached 26.1 million hectares. This was 41.7 per cent of the normal area of 62.5 million hectares cultivated during the rabi season. Overall increase in sown area was led by the sharp expansion in area cultivated under rapeseed & mustard. Area sown under other major crops like wheat and gram increased but that under rice and coarse cereals continued to lag last year’s area sown.

Shortage in the supply of fertilisers has become a cause for concern this rabi season, particularly in the northern states of Punjab and Haryana. Sales of di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) declined by 21.4 per cent, urea by 34 per cent and potassium chloride (MoP) by 59.4 per cent during October 2021 compared to the corresponding year-ago levels. This was due to less availability. Fertiliser shortage started cropping up from the beginning of the kharif season. DAP is used more commonly across states at the beginning of sowing of rabi crops. International price of DAP has been almost twice the year ago levels since April 2021. This has hiked import cost. Its adequate availability could have speeded up the pace of sowing activities.

This year, area sown under rapeseed & mustard has taken a lead amongst rabi crops. Area under the oilseed makes up around 10 per cent of the area cultivated during the rabi season. By 19 November, area sown expanded by 30.5 per cent to 6.5 million hectares. Sowing not only progressed at a fast clip but it also exceeded the normal area for the rabi season at 6.2 million hectares.

Price of rapeseed & mustard has been rising consistently for the past few months. Average price in October 2021 was at an all-time high of Rs.7,335.6 per quintal. The rise in price encouraged farmers to bring more area under the oilseed.

The biggest increase in sown area was seen in Rajasthan, the state with the largest area under rapeseed & mustard. Area expanded by 45 per cent to 2.6 million hectares. So far, close to 0.5 million hectares of additional area has been brought under cultivation compared to the area sown by the end of the last rabi season. Madhya Pradesh also recorded an expansion of 75 per cent, y-o-y, in area sown. In Haryana, sown area increased by 22 per cent. But Uttar Pradesh, the second largest state cultivating rapeseed & mustard, did not witness any increase in area sown. Rather area cultivated under the oilseed decreased marginally. With rabi sowing to continue for atleast 5-7 weeks, area under rapeseed & mustard is expected to expand further.

Wheat is the largest crop cultivated during the rabi season. It accounts for almost half of the total area sown during this season. By 19 November, area sown under wheat increased by 9.6 per cent, year-on-year, to 8.8 million hectares. But this was only 29 per cent of the normal area cultivated during the season. Area cultivated under wheat has gathered pace in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Sown area increased by 36.2 per cent and 15.6 per cent, respectively, in these two states. In Rajasthan, too, area sown under wheat almost doubled. But, sowing has yet to pick-up in the third and fourth largest wheat-producing states of Punjab and Haryana. In these two states and also in Bihar, the deficit in area sown was very high. Shortage of fertilisers is likely to have affected the pace of sowing in these states.

Gram is another important rabi crop, making up around 15 per cent of the area sown under rabi crops. By 19 November, area sown increased by 2.9 per cent y-o-y. At 5.4 million hectares, area sown under gram was 56 per cent of the normal area for the season. Sown area in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh expanded by over 14 per cent each. In Madhya Pradesh, the state with the largest area under gram cultivation, around 50 per cent of the normal area has been cultivated so far. In Rajasthan, at 1.6 million hectares, area sown was more than the normal area for the season. But this is the usual trend as last year too, area sown had crossed normal area by this time of the year. In Maharashtra, which is another major state cultivating gram, area sown was down by 9.8 per cent.

Area under rice cultivation was down by 10.4 per cent to 0.6 million hectares by 19 November. Sown area, so far, was only 15 per cent of the normal area sown.

By 19 November, area sown under coarse cereals was lower by 7.3 per cent, y-o-y. At 2.1 million hectares, area sown was 36.5 per cent of the normal area sown during the rabi season. Area under jowar sowing was down 12.5 per cent whereas it expanded by 4 per cent under maize and 15.8 per cent under barley.

Sowing of rabi crops is gathering pace, though in some states the progress is slow. Less than half of the total rabi area has been cultivated so far. Sowing of wheat, rice and gram have still a long way to go but that of rapeseed & mustard has progressed at a very fast clip.

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