M A I N   N E W S

Punjab, Haryana face kharif deficit
West UP too affected as deficient monsoon retreats
Rabi forecast no better
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 21
The country’s grain bowl — Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh — may end up being the driest in the country this kharif season in the wake of an erratic monsoon season. Things are not looking up for the upcoming rabi season either.

The southwest monsoon is set to begin its retreat within 48 hours, starting with the west end (Rajasthan), after having overstayed its visit to the northwest by more than three weeks.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) says "conditions are favourable for the withdrawal of seasonal rain from some parts of the northwest during the next two days".

There is, however, still time for the IMD to officially declare the retreat from the rest of the northwest. The conditions that led to heavy downpour over Jammu and Kashmir have weakened considerably in the past 10 days.

Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh has already warned that the areas that received deficient rain during kharif (primarily Punjab, Haryana and western UP) will continue to face challenges during the rabi season.

The first advance kharif foodgrain production estimates released this Friday have projected a decline of over 7 per cent because of deficient monsoon.

The government estimates put the foodgrain production at 120.27 million tonnes (MT), down by nearly 10 MT from the fourth advance estimate of 129.24 MT last year.

The production of key winter crop wheat is estimated to go down from 91.69 MT a year ago to 88.02 MT in 2014-15.

Terming the initial kharif forecast “conservative”, Singh remains optimistic that production could rise in the following estimates — a trend observed in the past years. But the situation is not as bad as 2009 — another bad monsoon year.

The Centre has asked states to focus on 3.37 million hectare left unsown to make up for the expected kharif shortfall. Singh said during rabi, the focus would be on improving production of pulses and oilseeds since acreage under these two crops had been affected the most because of delayed rain.

In 2014, the southwest monsoon began its sojourn with a delay and topped it up with deficit in some areas and excess in others.

Normally, monsoon begins withdrawing from Rajasthan in the first week of September, completing its retreat journey through the region by mid-September.

But there have been instances in the past when monsoon overstayed its visit. IMD officials say there are no hard and fast deadlines and variations in arrival and departure dates are normal. For instance, last year the retreat began from Rajasthan on September 9 and from Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana around September 19.

While a delayed departure can help in sowing of winter crops by adding moisture to the soil, seasonal rain extending beyond a point can harm the standing crops — particularly paddy and cotton — ready for harvest. For rain-deficit parts of the northwest, this extra rain is helpful but not beyond a point.

Overall, the northwest deficit is down to 21 per cent, primarily on the back of the 15 per cent excess rain that lashed Jammu and Kashmir over a few days. But most of the other subdivisions of the region, except Rajasthan, are down with a severe shortfall.

But with 47 and 55 per cent shortfall so far this year, Punjab and Haryana will go down as the worst affected states in the entire country along with western UP (-54) and eastern UP (-41).

Hill states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh are short of 26 and 35 per cent rain, respectively. East and West Rajasthan have so far received 3 and 2 per cent extra rain, respectively. Marathwada and Telangana are the other two regions to have suffered a rain shortfall in the country, which has otherwise now improved to a deficit of 12 per cent.


(G)rain deficit

n The first advance kharif foodgrain production estimates have projected 7% decline because of deficient monsoon

n Foodgrain production stands at 120.27 million tonnes, down by 10 MT from the fourth advance estimate of 129.24 MT last year

n Production of wheat, a key winter crop, is estimated to go down from 91.69 MT a year ago to 88.02 MT in 2014-15 crop season

Monsoon shortfall

n The overall northwest monsoon deficit is down to 21%, primarily because of 15% excess rain that lashed J-K recently

n Punjab (-47%) and Haryana (-55%) may be the worst affected states in the country along with western UP (-54%) and eastern UP (-41%)

n Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh are short by 26% and 35% rain, respectively





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