Uneven monsoon rains slow India's summer planting

Rice, cotton, corn and soybeans fall behind schedule
calendar icon 11 July 2023
clock icon 2 minute read

Farmers in India have fallen behind in planting key summer-sown crops such as rice, cotton, corn and soybeans due to the uneven distribution of monsoon rainfall, although they could catch up in the coming weeks if sufficient rain occurs.

According to Reuters, millions of Indian farmers plant summer crops mainly in the monsoon months of June and July, with the harvest starting in October.

This year, the delayed arrival of monsoon rains and lower rainfall in some southern, eastern and central states held back planting of summer crops even as monsoon covered the entire country nearly a week in advance.

Farmers have planted summer-sown crops on 35.34 million hectares as of July 7, nearly 9% lower than a year ago, according to data compiled by the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers' Welfare, which will keep updating the provisional crop sowing figures as it gathers more information from states.

Area under rice, the most important summer crop, stood at 5.4 million hectares, down from the last year's 7.1 million hectares, the data showed.

India accounts for more than 40% of world rice exports, which were 56 million tonnes in 2022, but lower production could force New Delhi to impose more restrictions on the exports, traders said.

"Rice planting in southern states and eastern India was down due to lower rainfall. But it will accelerate as monsoon rains are picking up," said an exporter based at Kakinada in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

The country has so far received 3% lower rainfall than the normal since the four-month long monsoon season started on June 1, but in some regions, the deficit is as high as 43%, weather department data showed.

In July, the most crucial month for planting of summer crops, India is likely to receive average monsoon rainfall between 94% and 106% of the long-term average, the weather department said last week.

Some 3.56 million hectares were planted with soybeans, 26% less than a year ago. Corn was planted in 2.71 million hectares, and was down 12%. Cotton area was down 11% to 7 million hectares, while sugar cane area rose 4.7% to 5.58 million hectares.

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