The early advance of the southwest monsoon and sufficient well-spread rains through July across the country have supported a significantly faster pace of sowing (18 percent increase over last year) of kharif (fall harvested) grain crops (rice, corn, other coarse grains and pulses). The MY 2019/20 rice export estimate has been raised to 11.5 million metric tons (MMT), and the MY 2020/21 export forecast is also higher at 12 MMT on strong export demand due to highly competitive prices of Indian rice compared to other origins, and ‘more- than-sufficient’ domestic supplies. MY 2019/20 and 20/21 rice ending stocks have been revised lower to 34 MMT and 36 MMT, respectively. MY2019/20 wheat ending stocks have been raised higher to 24.7 MMT based on official estimates.
Excellent 2020 monsoon …
The Southwest Monsoon covered the entire country by June 26, twelve days ahead of the normal date of July 8. The rains were sufficient and well-spread through June and most of July across the country, except for weak rains in some parts of the country in the second week of July (See Appendix 1). The latest update from the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) indicates the cumulative rainfall for the week ending July 26, 2019 was 4 percent above normal (compared to the 20-year average), with 29 of the 36 weather subdivisions receiving normal/above normal rains, and only 7 subdivision receiving deficient rains (see Appendix 2). Last’s year data suggests that about 21 of the 36 subdivision received deficient rains by end of July 24, 2019 (page 13). The IMD has forecast good rainfall in the last week of July and normal rainfall in August for most parts of the country, which will further augment planting and early plant setting/growth of kharif crops during the ongoing season. However, heavy rains have resulted in floods in the eastern states of Bihar and Assam.
The latest information from the Central Water Commission suggests that the water stored in the major reservoirs as of July 23, 2020 was 66.37 billion cubic meters (BCM), significantly higher than 42.8 BCM last year and 55.82 BCM the 10-year average. However, the reservoir water situation is likely to improve further with the expected normal monsoon in August.
… Bolsters Strong Kharif Planting
The early coverage and sufficient 2020 monsoon during June-July has supported a significantly higher pace of planting of kharif crops during the current season, with overall planting estimated to be more than 18 percent over last year. The planting has also been supported by increased availability of migrant laborers who returned to their villages from urban areas in May-June due to the economic crisis prompted by COVID19 in urban/industrial areas.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare (MoAFW) estimates total area sown through July 24, 2020 at
79.99 million hectares, compared to 67.5 million hectares at the same time last year (weak 2019 monsoon through mid-July 2019). However, the current season’s planting is also significantly higher than the 5-year average for area planted till July 24 (76.0 million hectares).
Plantings of almost all the crops are higher by double digits over last year, but the planting of largely unirrigated crops like pulses, oilseeds, and cotton are higher than irrigated crops like rice and sugarcane, and rain-fed coarse grains. Market sources report that planting for most crops will be over by the end of July, meeting the ideal planting window. However, planting for rice in southern India will continue through September.
Besides timely and sufficient monsoon rains, the record pace of planting has been supported by higher labor availability resulting from the migration of the urban/industrial un/semi-skilled laborers in May/June. Due to the COVID19 lockdown imposed at the end of March, and resultant economic crisis leading to job losses in urban areas, literally hundreds of thousand workers returned to their home village in the late spring/early summer months.
Most farmers will continue to plant rice over other crops wherever they have irrigation water availability due to relatively stable yields and market prices. Relatively higher market prices for pulses and oilseed and timely/sufficient monsoon rains have bolstered planting of pulses and oilseed. Market sources expect higher than previously expected acreage will be mostly coming out of last year’s fallow/uncultivated land as these crops need less water. Overall planting prospects for rice and other coarse grains are unlikely to improve from the forecast levels due to the limited scope of acreage substitution between the competing crops.
While the overall planting prospects looks very favorable, sufficient and well distributed 2020 monsoon through August-September will be essential to achieve Post’s MY 2020/21 kharif grain area and production forecasts.
Prolonged dry spells during August-September could potentially affect yield prospects in the non-irrigated area (nearly half of kharif cropped area). Excessive rains and floods in east India, cyclonic incidences in coastal India, and untimely rains in October may cause significant crop damage.
The government press note reiterates that the MSPs have been fixed as per the National Democratic Alliance commitment in the Union Budget of 2018 to provide MSPs at least 50 percent over the all-India weighted average cost of production, ensuring remunerative prices to the farmers. While the government press release states that the prices of select crops have been raised higher than others to promote crop diversification, sources report that these modest increases are unlikely to cause any significant cropping shift. Market analysts are concerned that the increasing MSPs will further erode the export competitiveness of Indian agricultural commodities already under pressure due to relatively low international prices.