Agri ministry asks states to step up kharif preparedness

The agriculture ministry has initiated a series of meetings with the state governments on the preparedness on the availability of seeds, fertilisers, fodder and other inputs required for the forthcoming kharif crops, and activating district-level agricultural contingency plans in case of a possible shortfall in monsoon rains.

Officials told FE that state-specific meetings are being held in collaboration with other related ministries including agriculture, food, water resources, home and earth sciences, to ensure better coordination at the ground level.

As part of the exercise, 514 comprehensive district agricultural contingency plans prepared by the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), affiliated to the Indian Council for Agricultural Research, have been updated.

These distinct, specific plans suggest measures such as the kind of crops to be grown, protection of soils and availability of fertilisers to be initiated in case of deficiency in monsoon rains.

According to official estimates, rain-fed areas constitute half of the net cultivated area and account for 40% of the country’s food grain production. The southwest monsoon (June-September) rains contribute around 73% of the annual precipitation.

Discussions with officials of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have been completed and meetings with other states such as Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Rajasthan will be held this month.

“We preparing for the coming kharif season in collaboration with the state governments, so that timely assistance is provided to farmers,” an official said.

In these meetings with states, district-level officials from agriculture, horticulture, veterinary sciences and rural development participate and action plans for each district were presented utilising the information available in the district-specific contingency plans.

CRIDA had prepared 650 districts agricultural contingency plans in 2014, which are being updated at regular intervals.

The comprehensive district-specific document also provides details on the crops and cultivation practices to be adopted in case of deficient or delay in monsoon, unseasonal rains, frosts or unusually high temperature excessive rains, etc.

The contingency plans also contain basic agricultural statistics, physical characteristics of the district (soil mapping), and details of the crops and methods of cultivation to be adopted in case of emergencies.

Besides, it provides information on fisheries and livestock, which are critical to fight drought-like conditions in rain-fed regions of the country.

Last month, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), in its first forecast, stated that southwest monsoon rainfall during June-September is likely to be in the ‘normal’ range at 96% of the benchmark long-period average (LPA). Rainfall between 96-104% of the LPA is considered ‘normal’.

This is despite the El Nino conditions likely developing in July and impacting August-September rains.

However, private weather forecasting agency Skymet had predicted that monsoon precipitation this year could be ‘below normal’ at 94% of the LPA.

The IMD will release its second long-range forecast for the monsoon by the end of the month.

Monsoon rainfall for crops grown in over a half of the net cultivated area. Key kharif crops like paddy, tur and soybean are significantly rain-fed even now, though irrigation has improved significantly in the last two decades. The central and eastern parts of the country are more dependent on monsoon rains for crop cultivation.

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