Skymet Weather releases kharif crop estimate 2019

With over 50 percent of the cultivable area being rain-fed, the farm economy could be in a precarious situation with the ongoing rain deficiency.
Cotton production in the country is expected to go up by 10 percent as compared to last year. (Image: Kimberly Vardeman, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0) Cotton production in the country is expected to go up by 10 percent as compared to last year. (Image: Kimberly Vardeman, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0)

India’s leading weather and agriculture risk monitoring company has released a Kharif Report, sharing the prediction for the upcoming monsoon and its impact on the production of kharif crops. According to the report, Skymet expects the upcoming monsoon to be “below normal” to the tune of 93 percent (with an error margin of +/-5 percent) of the long period average (LPA) of 887 mm for the four-month period from June to September. The Pacific Ocean has become strongly warmer than average. The model projections call for an 80 percent chance of El Niño during March-May, dropping to 60 percent for June to August. This means, it is going to be a devolving El Niño year, though retaining threshold value all through the season. Thus, monsoon 2019 is likely to be below normal. The onset month of June is going to be sluggish and deficit rains are likely to spill into July. The second half of the season would see better rainfall wherein August is expected to be a shade better than September and both the months would manage to see normal rains.

El Niño also impacts the distribution of rainfall. El Niño conditions mostly coincide with a period of weak monsoon and rising temperatures and thus, the probability of drought occurrence surges during El Niño events disturbing crop production and water supply. Skymet expects that East India, along with a major portion of Central India, would be at a higher risk of being rain deficient, especially during the first half of the season. Deficient rains are expected over Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal along with central parts of the country predominantly Vidarbha, Marathwada, southern parts of Madhya Pradesh and some parts of Gujarat. Odisha, Chhattisgarh and coastal Andhra Pradesh are most likely to see normal rains throughout the season.

With below normal monsoons, the possibility of deficient and largely deficient rains is more than 40 percent in 66 percent districts of the country. The report offers an in-depth analysis of the impact of predicted monsoon on the major kharif crops and the changes that could possibly occur on the production side. About half of the country’s food grain production comes from the kharif output which stands around 140 million tons.

Total foodgrain yield during the kharif season is directly affected by variations in the summer monsoon (June to September) precipitation. Increase or decrease in monsoon rains is generally correlated with an increase or decrease in food grain yields and production. Prolonged breaks in monsoon also adversely affect crop growth and result in reduced crop yields. El Niño’s impact on crop conditions and development depends on the sensitivity of the phenological phase of crops during the peak period of the event. The flowering and grain filling phases of cereal crops are more sensitive to water stress.

Between January and April 2019, India has received 10 percent lower than normal rainfall for the period. Winter rains (January and February) was 24 percent higher than the normal while pre-monsoon showers (March and April) were 30 percent lower than the normal rainfall for the period. With 50 percent of India’s population dependent on agriculture and more than 50 percent of the cultivable area rain-fed, the farm economy could be in a precarious situation with the ongoing rain deficiency.

Cotton production in the country is expected to go up by 10 percent to 33.19 million bales in 2019-20 from 30.08 million bales in the previous year. Cotton acreage on the national front is likely to be higher by 2.7 percent to 12.57 million hectares. Significant increase in cotton prices during the last season, better realisation over competitive crops coupled with monsoon vagaries are likely to help cotton acreage to rise in all major cotton producing states.

Around 64 percent area under cotton is rain-fed. Maharashtra has the largest acreage under cotton followed by Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. Reservoirs in these states are already reeling under alarming pressure. Hence, the crop remains fully dependent on rains. However, average monsoon rainfall is decreasing in few of the major cotton-producing states including Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab and Karnataka. Since Punjab and Haryana have good irrigation facility, no adverse impact is expected on account of lower rainfall. As per the analysis, 2019 being the second consecutive below normal monsoon year, yields will be adversely impacted in a few states such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. These states are already under severe moisture stress, hence water scarcity at critical growth stages may damage the yield. In the case of cotton, rains in September has the biggest impact on the yield. As per Skymet’s estimates and the monsoon forecast, expected national average yield will be 449 kilograms per hectare for kharif 2019.

Soybean and pulses in Maharashtra, groundnut in Gujarat, maize and turmeric in Telangana, paddy and groundnut in Andhra Pradesh are the competitive crops for cotton. Given the prices of cotton from last season and erratic and delayed rainfall in Maharashtra and Telangana, it is expected that some of these areas may shift towards cotton production this season. Prices are expected to trade with the firm undertone upto September 2019. Firm prices at the time of sowing is also expected to support higher area coverage under cotton.

Soybean production is likely to increase by around 8 percent to 12.57 million tons, compared to 13.69 million tons in the previous season. It is expected that Soybean acreage across the country is expected to go up by 3.2 percent as compared to the previous year as all major growing states would witness higher sowing. As per the forecast, if rains get delayed, then farmers will not opt for pulses and may shift to soybean owing to higher prices and lesser monsoon rainfall. However, rainfall distribution and a significant increase in cotton prices are likely to limit the gain in acreage.

Across the country, 99 percent area under soybean is rain-fed and heavily dependent on the rainfall to perform well. Similar to cotton producing states, major soybean producing states may witness water stress in the middle of the crop season with below normal water storage in reservoirs. In the case of soybean, rains in September have the biggest impact on the yields. As per estimates and monsoon forecasts, the national average yield of soybean is expected to be around 1112 kilograms per hectare, about 8 percent lower than the previous year’s production estimate. Although the yield is decreasing, the marginal rise in the production of soybean is expected due to the higher acreage.

In 2019, the prices have started rebounding and have already touched Rs 3931 per quintal in the spot market and the upward trend is expected to continue.

Paddy production is likely to go down by about 4 percent in the upcoming kharif season to 97.78 million tons as compared to the 101.96 million tons produced a year ago. In case of paddy, rains in July has the biggest impact on the yields. As per the estimates and monsoon conditions, national average yield of paddy is expected to be around 2545 kilograms per hectare.

The area under paddy would remain the same, however, the monsoon vagaries are expected to affect the yield, primarily in the rain-fed areas. India’s rice yields are rising due to improved varieties, better farming practices and expansion in irrigation facilities.

The growth in exports and higher realisation to farmers in the last fiscal year could translate to more area under basmati in 2019-20. There is an expected increase in area under cultivation within the basmati belts of Punjab and Haryana.

In the current year, the prices for paddy have reached Rs 3850 per quintal on robust export demand for basmati rice. According to Agricultural and Processed Foods Exports Development Authority (APEDA) data, the basmati exports in 2018-19 registered a growth of 8.8 percent at 44.15 lakh tons as compared to 40.57 lakh tons in 2017-18. While on the other hand, the export of non-basmati rice registered a negative growth of 14.5 percent. 

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