Dry June: Lowest paddy area in decade indicates farmers skipping first monsoon month for sowing

Area under the crop has been reducing in June, indicating the apprehensions of farmers regarding ‘normal’ rainfall
A dry June means the ground moisture levels are not conducive for sowing and this has become a chronic problem for India's farmers.
A dry June means the ground moisture levels are not conducive for sowing and this has become a chronic problem for India's farmers. Photo: iStock

Just 2.27 million hectares (mha) have been sown with paddy by the end of June, according to data released by the Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare on July 5, 2024. This is the lowest area sown to paddy, India’s primary Kharif crop, in June compared to the last 10 years, except in 2015, when India was reeling from severe drought.

On June 30, 2016 and 2017, for instance, area under paddy was 3.90 mha and 3.89 mha respectively. It has remained between 3.60 mha and 2.69 mha in the following years since then. In 2023, this area, as on June 28, was just marginally higher than the current year’s figures. 

The data has been compiled from different area coverage reports of Crop Weather Watch Group of the Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare. 

The analysis showed that area under the crop has been reducing in June, indicating the apprehensions of farmers regarding ‘normal’ rainfall. With rainfall patterns becoming extremely erratic over the last few years, farmers have been skipping the month of June and shifting sowing operations towards July. 

A dry June means the ground moisture levels are not conducive for sowing and this has become a chronic problem for India's farmers.
High temperatures, sluggish monsoon: June no longer suitable for Kharif sowing for millions of farmers

Growing a crop like paddy, which needs continuous flooding of fields up to 10 centimetres depth for two weeks at the transplantation stage, requires precise weather information. In 2024, the month ended with a rainfall deficit of 11 per cent. 

June, the first month of the southwest monsoon season, provides the required soil moisture necessary for starting sowing operations for 61 per cent India’s farmers practising rain-fed agriculture. A dry June means the ground moisture levels are not conducive for sowing and this has become a chronic problem for farmers. 

Monsoon no longer ‘normal’

Rainfall patterns over the years have seen substantial changes in the date of arrival, frequency as well as distribution. India’s crop calendar, which gave information on sowing and harvesting time, as well as weekly average rainfall and temperature during critical growth stages of the area's major crops, was no longer relevant. 

Down To Earth previously analysed India Meteorological Deparment data for 30 years, from 1988 to 2018, covering 676 of India’s 730 districts in 28 states and the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, and found that 420 districts in the country (62 per cent of the districts covered in the data) have seen a decrease in rainfall in June — the key month for sowing the Kharif crop.

A dry June means the ground moisture levels are not conducive for sowing and this has become a chronic problem for India's farmers.
Monsoon 2024: It was drought, deluge or both for India in June, a tell-tale sign of climate change

A total of 210 districts (31 per cent of the districts covered in the data) also reported an increase in the number of days with no rainfall.

Though 248 districts (36 per cent of the districts covered in the data) saw an increase in rainfall, it does not really help farmers because it still means unpredictable rainfall. For instance, a district could see heavy rain one day and then no rain for a long duration.

Overall Kharif position

Till June 28, 24.07 mha has been sown with Kharif crops, including paddy, pulses, oilseeds, coarse cereals, sugarcane, cotton and jute. The overall area was higher than last year’s area during the corresponding period, mostly driven by pulses, oilseeds and cotton. 

Area under pulses saw a significant increase (2.25 mha), compared to last year’s 0.80 mha. Similarly, oilseeds and cotton reported a sown area of 4.29 mha and 5.91 mha respectively. In 2023, area under these two crops was 1.68 mha and 3.63 mha, respectively, during the corresponding period. 

A dry June means the ground moisture levels are not conducive for sowing and this has become a chronic problem for India's farmers.
Monsoon 2024 unlikely to bring relief to North East India as IMD forecast paints grim picture, dry trend to continue

Related Stories

No stories found.
Down To Earth
www.downtoearth.org.in