Drought ef­fect: Out­put of sugar, cot­ton, pulses hit

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Zia Haq [email protected]­dus­tan­times.com

NEW DELHI: In­dia’s sugar and cot­ton out­put is show­ing signs of fall­ing for the first time in five years and in­suf­fi­cient pulses pro­duc­tion could keep prices high, early es­ti­mates showed in the midst of a crip­pling drought across a vast swathe of the country.

How­ever, the country will still have a sur­plus of ce­re­als de­spite back-to-back drought trim­ming over­all food­grains out­put from nor­mal-year lev­els.

Sugar out­put is pro­jected to fall be­tween 8% and 10%. In­dia is the world’s sec­ond-largest pro­ducer of the sweet­ener and also the big­gest consumer. Cot­ton pro­duc­tion has al­ready dipped 10%, fig­ures for April show.

Sugar out­put has been hit the hard­est in Ma­ha­rash­tra and Kar­nataka, two states worst af­fected by drought. Ac­cord­ing to the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­gan­i­sa­tion, over 35 mil­lion farm­ers grow cane, mak­ing up 7% of the ru­ral pop­u­la­tion.

A 14% de­fi­cient mon­soon has caused a se­vere drought in 256 of the country’s 640 dis­tricts, or about 40% of the country, stok­ing a chal­leng­ing ru­ral dis­tress for the Modi govern­ment.

The agri­cul­ture min­istry ex­pects a slightly higher pulses out­put of 17.33 mil­lion tonnes in 2015- 16, com­pared with the pre­vi­ous year’s 17.15 mil­lion tonnes, but this is way short of the 27 mil­lion tonnes needed. The gap is mostly met through costly im­ports, which keep prices high.

In Fe­bru­ary, re­tail pulses prices rose 37%, in con­trast to whole­sale prices fall­ing for the 17th month in a row in March. CON­TIN­UED ON P9

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