Ramesh Jagtap may have to drop his daughter’s wedding plan this Diwali. He blames the monsoon for it.
Millions of farmers across India are awaiting the monsoon, which is not merely an annual weather event but sustains their lands and livelihoods. Maharashtra has reported minus 86% deficient rainfall so far in the monsoon season. Sowing of kharif crops is delayed. A ground report from Pune and Satara districts.
D Sarika 19 Jun 2023 10:34 AM GMT
Pune and Satara, Maharashtra
With every passing day of delay in the monsoon rainfall, Ramesh Jagtap’s dream of getting his daughter married this Diwali is fading. The 44-year- old farmer from Khatav, a rain-deficient region in Satara, Maharashtra, blamed the late arrival of southwest monsoon this year for ruining the lagan (wedding) plans of his second daughter.
“The monsoon is already late and I am yet to sow anything in my field. If it rains, I will have to sow bajra. And if it does not rain properly in the next 15 days, I will be able to sow only rabi [winter] jowar. And for that also there should be sufficient paus [rain in Marathi] towards the end of the monsoon season,” the worried farmer, who practises rainfed farming on his four-acre land, told Gaon Connection.
About 180 kilometres southeast of Jagtap’s dry and barren land, Bhagwan Raut’s two-acre land is also ploughed and kept ready for sowing. Last year, by June 12, the farmer from Mulshi in Pune had already sown soybean, but this year, on June 17 when Gaon Connection visited his farmland, it was barren.
“For the past few weeks, my wife and I have been toiling in the field to prepare it for sowing the kharif crop. But there is no rain,” complained the 64-year-old farmer. “Many farmers in our area have already started sowing but because of delayed rain they may have to go for double sowing which increases cost of production. Also, this delayed sowing for soybean may increase chances of pests and diseases which finally affect the crop yield,’’ he added.
The much-anticipated annual ritual of Indian farmers placing their bets on the monsoon has begun. The monsoon is not merely an annual weather event; it is the very essence of agricultural success for millions of farmers who depend on it to cultivate their crops. A delayed monsoon can disrupt planting schedules, impact crop growth, and potentially lead to lower yields, affecting both food security and the financial stability of farming communities.
This year, the farmers are finding themselves facing an unnerving delay. The onset of monsoon over Kerala was delayed by a week this year. And it is now almost the last week of June but due to slow progress of the monsoon and a lack of proper rainfall, a large number of farmers in Maharashtra are yet to undertake kharif sowing.
Map: Advance of Southwest Monsoon 2023
“Delayed monsoon affects the entire crop cycle and can also disturb our rabi crops,” said Raut.
His wife Chaya Raut complained, “Already in the last year, we have lost our crops due to unseasonal rains. Now this delayed monsoon has created a worrisome situation and I am worried how we will repay our loan.’’
Minus 86% rainfall departure in Maharashtra so far
As per the India Meteorological Department (IMD), out of total 36 districts in Maharashtra, 35 districts have reported a large rainfall deficit and one district has been categorised under ‘No Rain’ category.
The state has a large deficient monsoon of minus 86 per cent. As against its normal monsoon rainfall of 102.30 millimetre (mm) rainfall, the state has received only 14.50 mm rainfall between June 1 and June 18 in this southwest monsoon season.
Both Marathwada and Vidarbha regions, which are notorious for recurring droughts and farmers suicides, have reported a rainfall departure of minus 90 per cent so far. Madhya Maharashtra has minus 84 percent deficient rainfall, whereas Konkan and Goa meteorological subdivision has minus 80 percent rainfall departure.
Map: State-wise rainfall between June 1 and June 18, 2023
Don’t rush with sowing, says govt
Considering the situation, the Maharashtra government has cautioned the farmers not to rush for early sowing of kharif crops in June.
The agriculture department issued guidelines to farmers clearly warning them to ascertain the intensity of the rainfall before going in for the sowing process. “While sowing crops ensure there is at least 100 mm of rainfall. Don’t start sowing after a few spells of showers,” said state agriculture minister Abdul Sattar.
The meteorological department has also urged farmers not to sow crops in a hurried manner. It has advised the farmers to keep a watch on the department’s day to day monsoon related updates and plan their sowing accordingly.
Whereas farmers like Bhagwan Raut and Ramesh Jagtap are waiting for proper monsoon rainfall, some farmers like Ganpat Aba Thopte from Saswad area of the Pune district have already started sowing their kharif crops.
“We have taken a risk and started sowing for kharif. We cannot leave our farm empty. This week we are expecting rain, and hope we don't have to undertake double sowing,’’ Thopte told Gaon Connection looking skywards with folded hands.
Very low kharif sowing
In the state of Maharashtra, a total of 14.202 million hectares of land is to be cultivated in kharif season. If sugarcane planting is added to it, then it goes to 15.297 million hectares. However, the delayed arrival of monsoon has led to difficulties in implementing the planned cultivation. So far, only 0.077 million hectares have been sown, informed government sources.
In the Konkan region, the cultivation area is 0.414 million hectares, as of now only 0.003 million hectares (0.77 per cent) has come under cultivation this season. Similarly, in the Nashik division, total cultivation area is 2.065 million hectares, out of which only 0.062 million hectares (2.99 per cent) have come under sowing.
Sowing activities in the Pune division have not yet commenced. The cultivation area of the Kolhapur division is 0.728 million hectares, out of which sowing has been done only on 0.007 million hectares (0.91 per cent) area. Chhatrapati Sambhaji Nagar witnessed sowing on 0.001 million hectares (0.06 per cent) of area out of a total 2.090 million hectares of cultivable area for kharif season this year.
As far as Latur area in Marathwada is concerned, out of the total cultivable area of 2.767 million hectares, only 0.002 million hectares (0.07 per cent) area has come under sowing. The Amravati division has a total cultivable area of 3.259 million hectares, out of which as of now only 0.002 million hectares (0.06 per cent) land has come under kharif sowing. Similarly, in the Nagpur division, where the cultivable area spans 1.925 million hectares, only 0.03 per cent have been sown.
Clearly, it is going to be a difficult year ahead for the farmers of Maharashtra.