Food prices are likely to rise if the failure of the northeast monsoon affects Rabi crops which would result in a decline in foodgrain production.
Amidst a marginal change of 2 per cent YoY in terms of Kharif acreage, production in the Kharif season is likely to decline due to erratic to severe rainfall in many states. All eyes are therefore on the Rabi season as output decline in back-to-back seasons would skyrocket prices of crops, taking food inflation higher.
After the southwest monsoon ended 9 per cent below LPA, the northeast monsoon failed miserably falling 44 per cent below LPA. This is the third worst season in the last 10 years. In addition, cyclones hit the east and west coasts, causing significant damage to crops. All these factors are likely to have a major impact on the Rabi crops.
Rabi sowing activities is in its final stages and area under cultivation is trailing behind that of last year. As per latest data from the agriculture ministry, Rabi sowing in the country is complete in 581.5 lakh hec, lower by 4.8 per cent YoY. Major decline in area is seen in rice cultivation as well as in coarse cereals, while pulses and oilseeds have also lost some area. Area under rice is at 16.57 lakh hec, down 20 per cent majorly due to lack of rainfall in the main growing states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Area under wheat cultivation is lower by 2 per cent at 294.07 lakh hec. Higher area is recorded mainly in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, while area has decreased in the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, West Bengal and Haryana.
Increasing the MSP significantly for Rabi pulses has not achieved its objective of higher acreage as area under pulses has declined 5.7 per cent due to less returns and scanty rainfall in the growing regions. Area under chana and urad witnessed a 10 per cent loss in acreage each. Area under coarse cereals is at 44.98 lakh hec, down 15.9 per cent from acreage of 53.47 lakh hec last year. Loss in area is attributed to decreased cultivation in all major cereals such as jowar (-21.7 per cent), Bajra (-45 per cent), ragi (-10.8 per cent), maize (-10 per cent) and barley (-3.6 per cent). In oilseeds, area is lower by 4.8 per cent with all major oilseeds area recording a decline except rapeseed mustard and sesamum.
The author is a fundamental analyst with Karvy Comtrade Limited