No drought-like situation
Mumbai, June 28
The government has announced that the south-west monsoon is likely to be below normal this season. This has raised concerns about its impact on agriculture and the economy.
"... there is no drought-like situation in the country. The monsoon is delayed by about 12 days in June," Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar told reporters.
He said that the programme of sowing seeds, which was carried out with the help of state governments, is delayed by just a week. "This not a cause for worry," he said.
About 60 per cent of the total cultivable area of 140 million hectares is rain-fed, but the monsoon stopped in its tracks over the Konkan region of Maharashtra on June 7, although it arrived earlier than usual on May 23.
Agriculture Secretary T Nanda Kumar had said that there is a need to watch the rainfall in July-August carefully "...if it is well distributed in time and space without too many dry spells in between, we will still be able to achieve the agricultural production that we achieved last year," Kumar has said.
T Nanda Kumar has met agriculture secretaries of states like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh to discuss strategy.
Pawar said the monsoon is advancing from Maharashtra to other parts of the country like Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, and parts of Madhya Pradesh and Bihar.
“... the trend is quite encouraging and the major sowing period is July and August,” he said, adding that the country’s foodgrain production is likely to be the same as that of last year. In the 2008-09 crop year, the country produced about 230 million tonnes of foodgrain.
Pawar said, “The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast that the monsoon will be 93 per cent in July and 101 per cent in August; if it is correct, the question of drought does not arise.”
He said, “The stock situation of the country is quite comfortable” as India procured over 50 million tonnes of rice and wheat in the current marketing season.
On exports of agriculture commodities, he said, “Whatever commitments we have for exporting non-basmati rice and wheat through diplomatic channels, we are going to honour that.” The government banned the export of non-basmati rice in April last year to contain surging inflation. It has only allowed restricted export of the foodgrain to countries like Bangladesh, Nepal and some African nations though diplomatic channels.
Pawar said that this time the area under sugarcane cultivation is 15 per cent more in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and 10 per cent higher in Maharashtra and Gujarat.
Regarding sugar stocks in the country, he said that India would have a carryover stock of sugar at the beginning of the next season in October this year.
The country had a carryover stock of 100 lakh tonnes at the start of the 2008-09 season and the production was 155 lakh tonnes. The total sugar stock is 255 lakh tonnes. The domestic consumption is 220 lakh tonnes.
Pawar said the government would continue with the policy of importing raw sugar but would not encourage white sugar import. In April, the Centre had allowed sugar mills to import duty-free raw sugar till August 1. Besides, it had also permitted state-run firms MMTC, STC and PEC to import duty-free white (refined) sugar up to 10 lakh tonnes by August 1. — PTI