Setback for agriculture: Rabi sowing falls but officials say demonetisation not to blame

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Putting a serious question mark on the robustness of this year’s rabi production, wheat sowing was down 8.25% from normal until Friday. Also, with only two weeks to go before the sowing season ends, the area sown of all rabi crops was only two-thirds of the normal rabi area. Overall, sowing remained flattish till Friday, down 0.27% from the normal level, to be precise (see table).

Winter crops in the last two years were significantly below normal (2015-16 output was down 8% from 2013-14 level) and a bumper output was predicted for this year.

While analysts said the latest data released by the ministry of agriculture confirmed that demonetisation had impacted sowing adversely, official sources said after a temporary blip, sowing was stepped up with the government’s timely intervention in ensuring credit availability to farmers to purchase seeds and fertilisers. “There is no cause for concern,” said an official.

Area sown as on Friday, when compared with the comparable period in 2015-16, was up 8.5%, but that is no real gauge, as 2015-16 was any way a bad year when it comes to rabi production.

rabi

“Sowing hasn’t been impacted much because of cash crunch. However, high inputs costs are a problem. The yield would depend on the weather pattern in the next couple of months,” Ajay Vir Jakhar, chairman, Bharat Krishak Samaj, told FE.

Last month, the government had announced 6-16% increase in the minimum support price (MSP) for rabi crops — wheat, barley, gram masur, mustard and safflower — for the 2016-17 season. MSP is the price at which the government would buy wheat, pulses and oilseeds from farmers.

The agriculture ministry has set the country’s grain production target at a record 270.10 million tonnes (mt) for the 2016-17 crop year (July-June), up 6.7% from the output of 253.23 mt in 2015-16. The sowing of rabi crops usually begins at the end of October and harvesting starts in April.