Even as northern and western India faced torrential rainfall over the last two weeks, the Bay of Bengal branch of the monsoon continues to be weak, leading to delayed sowing in parts of northern and eastern India.

“Sowing has been affected because there has been less rain this year,” said Rajesh Das, an official at the Directorate of Agriculture in Odisha. “But it is slowly picking up.”

Low activity in the Bay of Bengal was one of the factors for severe dust storms in northern India about a month ago.

Since June 1, western, central and southern India have all received normal or higher than normal rainfall, barring Kutch, which has received 70% less rainfall than normal for this season. The rain deficit in North, East and North-East India, however, continues to be severe. The highest deficiency is in Manipur, which has 66% lower than normal rainfall this season. Conditions are also dire in the Gangetic plain.

The rain that battered other parts of the country had eased by Thursday. Despite higher than normal rainfall across several regions in peninsular India, the country has had overall 14% lower than normal rainfall across India for the week between July 5 and 11. While most reservoirs monitored by the Central Water Commission have levels above their live storage for downstream releases and power production, Sardar Sarovar in Gujarat and Yeldari and Bhima dams in Maharashtra still have no live storage at all.

Sowing affected

The sporadic appearance and disappearance of the monsoon from the Gangetic belt and Odisha is likely to lead to higher losses in farms, including in states such as Chhattisgarh that has state elections this year.

Farmers in Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha have had to invest in second sowings after a gap in the monsoon soon after their first sowing, according to news reports from these states. Gujarat too is affected with a delayed monsoon across the state leading to lower than normal acreage covered by sowing for this time of year. The agriculture departments of these states do not record the extent of this second sowing.

A similar pattern of rainfall in peninsular India two years ago led to high losses among farmers as they had less money to invest in seeds a second time and so had to opt for lower value crops of shorter duration.

Across India, paddy cultivation is 15% lower than normal, according to figures from the Agriculture Ministry. The worst affected states are Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Pulses too are affected. Tur cultivation in Bihar, Gujarat and Telangana is also lower than normal. Cotton is somewhat higher than normal and sugarcane sowing is on the rise as well, a month after the centre announced a relief package for sugar mills in debt.

It is useful to always remember that figures on sowing are not always reliable and that final sowing figures do not necessarily match figures verified at state levels. As this report from Punjab on cotton acreage points out, central figures continue to show that cotton farmers sowed 2.27 lakh acres more than ground verification conducted later in the season calculated.