In what should spell good news for the rural economy, India has reported an all-time record acreage of Kharif (summer sown) crops this year despite the Covid-19 pandemic and flood situation in many states. The development indicates that the farm sector, which remained largely free of restrictions during lockdown, may continue to register growth despite a shrinking GDP.
As on Friday, the total acreage was reported at 1,082 lakh hectares against 1,010 lakh hectares during the corresponding period last year – an increase by over 7%. Sown areas of mainly paddy, oilseeds and pulses contributed to this increase.
Barring damage due to inclement weather, several crops will benefit from the government’s procurement policies. During the lockdown period, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) had launched a massive operation to complete procurement and make payments to farmers.
India had reported its previous record for Kharif crop sown area in 2016 when the acreage was 1,075 lakh hectares. The country’s average sown area in the past five years has been 1,066 lakh hectares. The higher acreage can be attributed to a good monsoon rainfall and proactive measures, taken by farmers and governments during the lockdown period, to beat the impact of Covid-19 on agriculture.
“Exemptions given to the farm sector during the lockdown period helped farmers continue with their operations – first harvesting Rabi crops and then sowing Kharif crops – almost uninterrupted,” said Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar.
Noting that there is little impact of the pandemic on the farm sector, Tomar said the Kharif acreage would increase further as sowing of paddy was still continuing in a few states. “We are confident that the 2020-21 crop year would report an all-time record output of food grains and cross our target of 298 million tonnes,” he said.
The sown area under paddy, which occupies the highest acreage among all Kharif crops every year, has so far recorded an increase of over 35 lakh hectares as compared to last year. Higher area is reported from Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal among others.
Sowing operations of oilseeds, coarse grains and pulses have already been completed this season. Oilseeds (193 lakh hectares) and cotton (128 lakh hectares) have reported their highest acreage in the last five years.