New Delhi: The less-than-normal rainfall is likely to hit the agricultural sector hard and hinder its growth with Union Agriculture Minister Saharad Pawar and the Met Department on Monday admitting that monsoon has not been normal across large parts of the country. Even though Pawar refused to accept that the situation was drought-like, he added that the government would wait for the second week of August to make an official announcement and launch a contingency plan.
Pawar expressed fears over the weak monsoon, saying agricultural growth was a worry. Hinting at drought-like conditions, Pawar said it would be a challenge this year to maintain the agricultural performance. "The situation in Karnataka and parts of Maharashtra are worrisome. A contingency plan has been prepared," Pawar said.
"We have not reached the drought situation yet. This year monsoon is playing hide and seek. It is a challenge for our farmers to maintain the same performance as compared to last two years. This year, we have a challenge to maintain 4 per cent agriculture growth against the backdrop of weak monsoons," he said.
The country produced a record 252.56 million tonnes of foodgrain in 2011-12 crop year (July-June), helped by all time high production of wheat and rice.
"For the first time, we have exported 5 million tonnes (MT) of non-basmati rice, 1.5 MT of wheat, 2.5 MT of sugar, 11.5 million bales of cotton due to good production last year," Pawar said.
The Chairman of Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council, C Rangarajan, echoed Pawar, saying that deficient monsoon remains a worry. "The environment has improved slightly for monetary action, but the monsoon uncertainty prevails. Growth rate could be close to 7 per cent provided monsoon is normal," Rangarajan said.
With the Met Department saying that the monsoon may miss the forecast this month and may be deficient in July, the farmers are a worried lot.
According to the Met Department the El Nino effect, a phenomenon that causes temperature variations, may emerge in August and September. The Met Department expects the monsoon to recover in rice-growing areas, but not in Karnataka and the North-East. It says rainfall will be deficient in Gujarat's oilseed-growing areas too.
Quantitatively, monsoon has been 23 per cent deficient with the food bowl states of Punjab and Haryana receiving 70 per cent less rainfall than normal. In area-wise distribution, 40 per cent area of the country has received excess or normal rainfall and remaining 60 per cent had deficient or scanty rainfall.
South-west monsoon, the lifeline of agriculture hit Kerala on June 5 but its progress through the country has been delayed, impacting sowing of crops such as paddy and coarse cereals.
Since 2005, this will be the second time that the monsoon will be deficient. In 2009, too, monsoon was deficient.
What is El Nino:
El Nino is a shift in atmospheric conditions that disrupts the global weather. It causes variations in global temperatures. It occurs every two to seven years and determines variability of the monsoons.
When the El Nino effect occurs, there is high pressure in Indian Ocean currents and India gets a bad monsoon.
(With additional information from PTI)