Sowing area under summer crops — rice, pulses, millets and oilseeds — was down 2.3% per year at 7.03 million hectares (MH) compared to the previous year, according to agriculture ministry data released on Friday.

The sowing area under rice and oilseeds (groundnut, sunflower and sesame) declined by 6.69% and 7.7%, respectively, over the year. The area under coverage for rice is 2.83 MH, so far against 3.03 MH in the year-ago period. Oilseeds area at present is at 1.01 MH, compared to 1.1 MH in the previous year.

Area under pulses, including green gram (moong) and black gram, has risen to 1.98 MH from 1.9 MH, and that under millets and coarse cereals to 1.2 MH from 1.15 MH a year ago.

Summer crops are grown during March-June in areas with assured irrigation facilities.

Meanwhile, the government had set a marginally higher target of 332 million tonne (MT) for foodgrain production during the 2023-24 crop year (July-June), against the estimated output of 330.5 MT in the current crop year.

The higher target for foodgrains — paddy, wheat, pulses, oilseeds and coarse grains — is despite the possibility of a deficient monsoon due to likely El Nino conditions developing during the later part of the monsoon season (June-September).

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Friday, in its second long-range forecast, has predicted that the southwest monsoon rainfall is likely to be in the ‘normal’ range at 96% of the benchmark long-period average (LPA).

Rainfall between 96% and 104% of the LPA is considered ‘normal’. The monsoon is likely to hit the Kerala coast by June 4, according to the Met department forecast.

If the IMD’s prediction holds true, the country would receive ‘normal’ or ‘above normal’ rainfall for five consecutive years. This is expected to give a boost to the sowing of kharif crops — paddy, tur, soybean and cotton — while also ensuring adequate soil moisture for rabi crops like wheat, mustard and chana.

Another positive factor is that the 146 reservoirs in the country now have water levels at a comfortable 23% above the 10-year average, according to the latest Central Water Commission data.

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