The government on Thursday tied its hopes to forecasts of good rainfall in July-August for maintaining last year's farm production level, while discounting fears of a drought.
"We need to watch the rainfall in July-August carefully and if it is well distributed in time and space without too many dry spells in between, we will still be able to achieve the agricultural production that we achieved last year," agriculture secretary T Nanda Kumar told reporters.
He met with farm secretaries of states like Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh to discuss strategy.
About 60 per cent of the total cultivable area of 140 million hectares is rain fed, but monsoon has stopped in its tracks over Konkan region of Maharashtra on June 7, although it arrived earlier than usual on May 23.
There were fears that a poor monsoon could hit the economy, which is already suffering from the global slowdown.
"A slight delay in the rainfall in the central and southern parts of the country should not be viewed in any way as an year of drought," Nanda Kumar said, but added states were asked to keep contingency plans ready.
He noted that in normal years, the country receives 62 per cent of the rain in July-August and only 16 per cent in June and therefore there is no cause for worry at this moment.
The rest of the rainfall is received in September.
Nanda Kumar said there has been adequate rainfall in most parts of Andhra Pradesh, some parts of Gujarat, Orissa and Bihar, which has encouraged sowing of Kharif crops like paddy, soyabean, groundnut, cotton, sugarcane, arhar, moong and urad.
The secretary also informed about various decisions taken
during the meet, which includes disseminating suitable advisories to the farmers by the state level weather watch group and launching a technical helpline by Indian Council of Agricultural Research from Friday.
Besides, he said the element of seed component would be stepped in all the schemes that are being implemented by the Centre to ensure that whatever short-duration varieties are available will be supplied to the farmers at short notice.
Nanda Kumar noted that this year Rs 1,200 crore (Rs 12 billion) more has been allocated under the two flagship programmes -- Rashtriya Krishi Vikash Yojna and National Food Security Mission and said that States can utilise this fund if they want for delayed monsoon.
"At this point of time, there is enough money with states and the Centre to run Kharif programmes," he said.
The secretary said that states have been asked to update their contingency plan, which they normally prepares every year, to deal with possible failure of monsoon.
Nanda Kumar noted that the country has about 50,000 tonnes of surplus seeds which can be utilised in case of emergency. However, according to sources, the seed requirement for the Kharif 2009 season is 11,09,672 tonnes and the availability is 12,65,097 tonnes.
On progress of Kharif sowing, agriculture commissioner N B Singh said sowing is taking place 'very well' in Tamil Nadu where rains have been 'very good'.
The entire state of Karnataka has received very good rains and therefore sowing of all crops is continuing there, he said, adding that sowing is also taking place in Gujarat which has received about three-fourth of the rainfall.
"These are the areas where some important crops like groundnut and soyabean are planted," Singh said.
The commissioner said that Uttar Pradesh has informed that 75 per cent seedlings of rice is ready for transplanting.
"We must remember that this is the beginning of the sowing season and the peak season is yet to come and that will be during the last week of June and first week of July," Singh said, allaying fears of decline in production.
Asked about less acreage so far this season, he said the area under coverage was higher last year as there was early monsoon.