Plantation area drop on poll eve anguishes Govt

A massive drop in agricultural cultivation has led to serious concern among the stakeholders, including the Centre, against the backdrop of a recent hike in the minimum support prices (MSP). The Agriculture Ministry data shows that plantation area saw a decline of 27 lakh hectare during the current rabi season this year.

In addition, rice cultivation area also declined by 36 per cent, mainly due to dismal performance reported from southern peninsula including Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The lower sowing is attributed to erratic rainfall during monsoon season, deficiency of north east monsoon, low moisture in soil and five cyclonic disturbances/storms which include cyclone Daye (September 17-24); Luban (October 6-15); Titli (October 8-15); Gaja (November 10-19) and Ockhi (November 18-24).

As per latest Agriculture Ministry data, as many as 414.29 lakh hectare was sown as compared to 441.59 lakh hectare last year, a decline of 7 per cent this year despite hike in the rabi and kharif crops of MSP.

“The lowering in plantation area is a major concern for the Agriculture Ministry ahead of the next year Lok Sabha polls and this has happened despite hike in the MSP. The Narendra Modi Government has also expected a bumper crops in 2018-19,” said a source in the Agriculture Ministry.

“Farm sector still employs 60 per cent of India’s population even though contribution of agriculture to gross domestic product (GDP) has fallen from 18 per cent in 2013-14 to less than 14 per cent in 2016-17. “The bumper crops will make the Government to formulate pro-farmers policy,” a source said.

As per data, despite the Met Department claims of normal monsoon, 250 out of 681 districts remained deficient to large deficient of rainfall this year. “Besides, the Met department has recorded 22 per cent deficiency in north east monsoon till date in southern parts of the country where rice and wheat crops are depended on this monsoon. Frequent cyclonic disturbances also impacted the rabi and kharif sowing this year,” said a source.

Officials feel that the production of wheat could fall in 2019 from record output this year as lower moisture levels and higher temperatures in key growing regions especially in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. The data shows nearly194 lakh hectare are under wheat cultivation is reported till December 8 as compared to 190. 90 lakh hectare, a 1.88 per cent more than last year.

Barring wheat, all other crop categories have reported lower acreage as compared to the same period last year. Oilseeds, which reported better acreage till last week, have for the first time slipped to below that in the previous rabi season. As against 67.34 lakh hectare covered in the corresponding period in 2017-18, the area under oilseeds till this week was 65.45 lakh hectare.

The shrinkage in pulses area continued to be more than 10 per cent so far this year. The area under pulses till this week was 113.69 lakh hectare as compared to 126.78 lakh hectare same period in 2017-18. Gram, the main rabi pulses crop, reported 13 per cent shortfall with the area dropping to 77.27 lakh hectare as compared to 88.94 lakh hectare same week last year. Coarse cereals, on the other hand, reported a 26 per cent drop in area with acreage slumping to 33 lakh hectare this week as compared to 44.62 lakh hectare in the same period in 2017-18.

In 11 States and Union Territories (UTs), including Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, 50 per cent or more districts experienced deficient to “large deficient” rainfall. Karnataka declared 23 out of its total 30 districts drought-hit due to deficient rainfall, and Andhra Pradesh announced that 274 blocks in six districts were ‘severe drought hit’.


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