India’s rabi or winter crops sowing not impacted by demonetisation

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India’s rabi or winter crops sowing not impacted by demonetisation

Our bureau
New Delhi, Jan 6:

Demonetisation has not impacted the rabi or winter crops — wheat, pulses, oilseeds and coarse cereals sowing in the country.  The area sown till today was 60.2 million hectares, up more than 6% from the comparable period last year and more than 2.7% higher than what is described as ‘normal’ for the period.

Sowing of wheat, the crop that accounts for about half of the rabi area, recovered mostly during last one month. While area under wheat was down 8% from normal on December 2, it was 3% more than normal till today, according to data released by the agriculture ministry.

Pulses – gram, lentil, urad etc area was up 9% today, while that of oilseeds including groundnut, mustard and sunflowere marginally up. According to sources, sowing has so far been completed in close to 95% of areas usually sown.

However Ajay Jhakar, Chairman, Bharat Krishak Samaj said demonetisation has artificially depressed prices of farm produce by 30% and even farmers banking with cooperative banks have suffered. “Farmers still support demonetisation because of perceived longterm gains to the economy which will translate into tangible benefits for the farm sector,” Jhakar said.

Acknowledging that farmers had faced a cash crunch in the first few days following demonetisation, an agriculture ministry official said that a series of measures announced by the government helped in increasing the sowing area. The government allowed farmers to buy seeds using old Rs 500 notes from state-owned companies and asked fertiliser companies to give soil nutrients on credit to farmers.

The government also told Nabard to disburse Rs 21,000 crore to cash-starved farmers, helping them sow winter crops like wheat. Under the scheme, Nabard is disbursing money to farm cooperatives for onward payments to farmers. Besides, the government earlier had given 60 days more for availing of prompt repayment incentive of 3% to those farmers whose crop loan due dates fall between November 1 and December 31.

Under the interest subvention scheme, farmers get the short-term crop loan of up to Rs 3 lakh for one year at an interest rate of 7% and those repaying on time get the loan at 4% .

In November last year, the government had announced 6-16% increase in the minimum support price (MSP) for rabi crops — wheat, barley, gram masur, mustard and safflower — for the 2016-17 season. MSP is the price at which the government would buy wheat, pulses and oilseeds from farmers.

The ministry has set the country’s grain production target at a record 270.10 million tonnes (mt) for the 2016-17 crop year (July-June), up 6.7% from the output of 253.23 mt in 2015-16. The sowing of rabi crops usually begins at the end of October and harvesting starts in April.

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Table:

Rabi sowing (in million hectare)

 

Till Jan 6, 2016 ‘Normal’* for corresponding period % change
Wheat 30.31 29.41 3.07
Rice 1.27 1.72 – 26.27
Pulses 15.26 13.90 9.79
Oilseeds 8.06 8.03 0.40
Coarse Cereals 5.36 5.74 -3.97
Total 60.27 58.65 2.76

Source: agriculture ministry, *last five years averages