Summer crop planting down 27% in India on patchy monsoon rains

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian farmers have planted 23.4 million hectares with summer crops, down 27% from this time a year ago, according to the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare, buffeted by patchy monsoon rains that slowed down sowing in the country.

FILE PHOTO: Women plant rice saplings at a paddy field in a village in Nagaon district, in the northeastern state of Assam, July 3, 2018. REUTERS/Anuwar Hazarika/File Photo

Farmers start planting their summer-sown crops from June 1, when monsoon rains are expected to reach India, where nearly half of farmlands lack irrigation. Planting usually continues until the end of July.

Planting of rice, the key summer crop, was at 5.2 million hectares as of July 5 versus 6.9 million hectares in the previous year, the ministry said. Corn planting was 2.1 million hectares against 3.1 million hectares.

The area planted with cotton was at 4.6 million hectares versus 5.5 million hectares the prior year.

Sowing of soybean, the main summer oilseed crop, was at 1.7 million hectares, down from 4.8 million hectares from the previous year.

Other crop plantings such as pulses and sugar cane were also down versus last year.

The figures are provisional and subject to revision as updates arrive with the progress of the June-September monsoon season.

India’s monsoon rains in the week ending last Wednesday were below average for the fifth week in a row, although the deficit was the lowest since the start of the season, after rains revived in central and western regions.

India received 6% less rainfall than the 50-year average in the week to July 3.

Water levels in India’s main reservoirs were at 17% of their storage capacity against 20% a year earlier, according to the latest government data.

Latest reservoir levels are lower than the last 10 years’ average of 20%.

Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj; editing by Richard Pullin