August dries up farmers’ hopes, renewed monsoon is key to Kharif’s fortune

Rao Gulab Singh Lodhi planted soybeans on 12 of his 16 acres of land on July 11, a day before the southwest monsoon resumed after a three-week “pause” phase.

“It rained a lot in the first half of June. But we were advised on the DD Kisan canal not to sow, because these rains were due to the cyclone (Yaas) and would not last ”, explains this farmer from the village of Nanhegaon in the district of Narsinghpur in Madhya Pradesh. Heavy rains on July 12 and 13 were followed by “rimjhim baarish” (intermittent showers) throughout July.

However, August was “poora sookha (totally dry)”. If it doesn’t rain in the next seven days, “my soybean crop (which has finished flowering and is at the start of pod formation) will fail,” feared Lodhi, who sowed moong (green gram) in his crop. balance of 4 acres in August. 15. The maturity period of soybeans is 90 to 94 days and approximately 75 days.

Lodhi’s concern sums up the harvest situation of the kharif (monsoon) season in India. A prolonged drought period from June 20 to July 11 caused farmers to miss the main kharif planting window between mid-June and mid-July. The resumption of the monsoon, however, led to rapid plantings. As of July 30, the cumulative area of ​​kharif crops, at 848.15 lakh hectares (lh), was only 4.7% lower than 889.99 lh during the corresponding period of 2020. This gap has widened. further reduced (1,064.04 lh against 1,083.09 lh) as on August 27 according to the Union Ministry of Agriculture.

Rao Gulab Singh Lodi in his soybean field in Nanhegaon village in Narsinghpur district in Madhya Pradesh.

But what is worrying is the rainfall in August, which is a deficit of 26.4% for the whole country. Area-weighted aggregate cumulative precipitation from June 1 to August 28 was 9.6% below the “normal” average over a long period. The crop whose sowing has already been delayed is currently facing water stress. All hopes are in a low pressure area formed over the northwest and mid-west of the Bay of Bengal off the coasts of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. The Indian Meteorological Department expects this system to result in increased rainfall activity over the southern peninsula of India through August 30 and over central and western India from August 29.

A rapid awakening from the monsoon is what Munna Ughreja is also desperate for. The 32-year-old man from Sultanpur village in Morbi district, Gujarat has sown cotton on 100 of his total farm of 200 bigha (80 acres). In total, he planted peanuts and soybeans on 40 bigha each and sesame on 20 bigha. On Saturday, Ughreja took part in a rally of farmers from 14 villages in Maliya’s taluka in Morbi, demanding the release of water into the Maliya branch canal of the Narmada dam project.

Gujarat, unlike most other states, experienced insufficient rainfall even in July. “We had a good period in June. But it has hardly rained for the past 72 days, except for a light drizzle at the start of the month. If there is no rain or the release of water from Narmada now, our crops will wither completely, ”Ughreja told the Indian Express by phone.

Water from the Sardar Sarovar dam irrigates parts of Saurashtra (districts of Morbi, Surendranagar, Botad and Bhavnagar) and Kutch (Rapar, Bhachau and Anjar talukas). But given the low rainfall in the Narmada watersheds, the government of Gujarat has decided to prioritize drinking water supply over irrigation.

High crop prices – especially soybeans but also groundnuts and cotton – had prompted farmers to take the plunge this time around. Kapas (unginned raw cotton) and peanuts are trading at Rs 7,000 per quintal each, well above their respective government declared minimum support price of Rs 5,726 and Rs 5,500. better for soybeans, which is between Rs 6,700 and Rs 7,400 per quintal at Kareli wholesale mandi of Narsinghpur, against the MSP of Rs 3,950.

“What are these prices for if there is no crop to harvest?” », Lodhi quips. The same feeling is shared by Ughreja. He had planted soybeans for the first time after his peanut crop suffered damage for two consecutive years – due to excessive rains. “I took soy because the price was great and it can also tolerate excessive rain better than peanuts. But my experiment seems to fail, ”he admits.

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