Business Standard

Drought, shift to gram keep wheat sowing low


Drought in parts of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, and a shift in area towards more lucrative gram, has pulled down wheat and mustard acreage in the current rabi season.

This, with low farm-gate prices for a second year, has aggravated distress in rural areas. Water levels in major reservoirs are also lower than last year’s.

In MP, wheat sowing was around 865,000 hectares less than last year as almost 400,000 hectares in areas adjoining Indore had shifted towards gram, while the rest was left unsown in drought-hit areas.

In the country, wheat, the main rabi foodgrain, has been sown on 29.55 million hectares, almost 1.44 mn ha less than last year. Wheat, mustard and gram are the major rabi crops.

Mustard sowing dropped by around 350,000 hectares as compared to last year, mainly because of a fall in Rajasthan and low southwest monsoon in some parts.

MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisga­rh have declared drought in 52 districts.

The three states have together sought central assistance of ~115 billion. Incidental­ly, all three are governed

by the Bharatiya Janata Party and go to the polls in the next one year.

Prices of the main rabi crops in the three states have dropped below their minimum support price, barring wheat, despite low production. The data show rabi sowing is complete on 60.95 mn ha, around 558,000 ha less than last year.

Gram has been sown on 10.56 mn ha, around eight per cent more than last year, with a relatively better price compared to other crops.

The latest data show gross value added (GVA) in agricultur­e and allied activities projected to fall 2.1 per cent in FY18 because of an expected drop in the rabi harvest, an almost three per cent fall in kharif production, and on account of a big base, according to the first Advance Estimate of gross domestic product for 2017-18, released on January 5.

Growth in GVA for agricultur­e and allied activities at current prices slumped from nine per cent in 2016-17 to 2.8 per cent in 2017-18, which means farm product prices grew a mere 0.7 per cent in 2017-18 against a rise of 4.1 per cent in 2016-17.

Chief Statistici­an T C A Anant told Business Standard that though India had relatively good agricultur­al production this year, farm growth might dip due to a higher base.

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