Fall in winter crops acreage not to impact production, says government

The government is confident of achieving high production level of rabi crops even as the sowing areas under wheat and mustard continue to lag behind from a year ago thanks to a slew of measures taken in the last few years. The acreage of winter-grown pulses was reported at 154.9 lakh hectare as of January 5, up by 8% from 143.4 lakh hectare in the corresponding period of the previous year. But wheat area still lowers by nearly 5% while mustard is also down by about 6%, according to agriculture ministry data. The wheat area will catch up to the same level as last year as many farmers in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh go for short duration varieties after harvesting the kharif crop, a senior agriculture ministry official said. However, there may not be a recovery in mustard as sowing window is almost complete, he added.

Rajasthan has some moisture stress as the rainfall was not normal and it did not get rains during the withdrawal phase even as monsoon retreated later than normal schedule this year. The state is the top producer of mustard crop. The acreage under mustard was 21 lakh hectare as of January 5, down from 28 lakh hectare in the year-ago period in Rajasthan.  However, the mustard acreage in Uttar Pradesh is higher at 12 lakh hectare, up from 11 lakh hectare a year ago. But farmers of UP are still to cover wheat sowing area as its acreage still falls short at 95 lakh hectare from 97 lakh hectare. “A minor reduction in acreage may not impact much as the government has taken a number of steps under the National Food Security Mission which helped farmers to increase productivity of their crops in 2016-17,” the official said. Besides, distribution of high yielding seeds, the government has also ensured better utilisation of fertilisers through the soil health card, he added.

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Asked about reports of farmers’ distress as the cause of decline in sowing areas, he said “had that been the case the pulses areas would not have been higher.” The prevailing prices, water availability and moisture level are the main factors that decide the sowing of crops. Where assured irrigation is there, wheat will definitely come up as the government has also been buying the crop at MS, he said.
Official data show that farmers in Madhya Pradesh have planted wheat in about 8 lakh hectare less area compared with last year while the acreage of chana and mustard together is up by 6.5 lakh hectare from the year-ago period. By the end of this month, a clear picture will be available on the outlook of winter crops, the official said and added that food grains production in 2017-18 (July-June) may be same level as last year.

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