Area under kharif crops in the 2024-25 crop year (July-June) as of 28 June rose 33% year-on-year to 24.1 million hectares (mh), according to data released by the agriculture ministry on Friday.

The increase in acreage is largely due to a rise in cultivation of pulses, oilseeds and cotton.

Depending upon region, farmers kick off plantation of kharif crops with the first showers of the four-month southwest monsoon season that begins in June. Unlike Rabi or winter crops, Kharif crops such as paddy and maize require plentiful rainfall.

The southwest monsoon, crucial for the world’s fifth-largest economy, makes the onset over the Kerala coast on 1 June and covers the entire country by 15 July.

Importance of monsoon

The timely arrival of the monsoon is crucial, especially for the agricultural sector, as around 56% of the net cultivated area and 44% of food production depend on monsoon rains.

Normal precipitation is essential for robust crop production, maintaining stable food prices, especially for vegetables, and bolstering economic growth. Agriculture contributes about 18% to India’s gross domestic product, underscoring the importance of a good monsoon.

This year’s monsoon lost momentum after reaching Mumbai on 9 June—two days ahead of schedule and remained stuck in the eastern region for about three weeks, preventing the agriculture ministry from releasing the acreage data until Friday. With the monsoon’s progress over the eastern areas and the India Meteorological Department declaring the arrival of the rain-bearing winds in Delhi, the ministry on Friday released the kharif crop acreage data for the first time this season.

Precipitation in the country as of 28 June was 14% deficient since the beginning of the June-September monsoon season, according to IMD.

Pulses take the lead

While the area under paddy or rice, the main kharif crop, was a tad lower year-on-year at 2.2 mh, pulses acreage was 181% higher at 2.2 mh, including 1.3 mh area under tur or arhar and 318,000 hectares area under urad.

The government has been trying to encourage farmers to cultivate more area under pulses, especially tur, in view of crop failure in the past two consecutive years and achieve self-sufficiency in pulses and oilseeds by 2027.

Consumer affairs secretary Nidhi Khare earlier this month told Mint that food prices, especially those of pulses, which have been skyrocketing for over a year will ease after July as farm output is expected to be good amid normal monsoon.

According to the agriculture ministry data, the area under oilseeds rose 18.4% to 4.3 mh, primarily due to a higher coverage under soybean. As of Friday, farmers planted soybean across 3.36 mh, sunflower across 37,000 hectares and sesamum across 43,000 hectares, against 163,000 hectares, 26,000 hectares and 26,000 hectares, respectively in the year-ago period.

The area covered under groundnut, however, was lower at 819,000 hectares compared to the previous year’s 1.45 mh.

In the case of millets, the area was nearly 15% down year-on-year at 3 mh. Bajra was sown over 409,000 hectares compared to 2.5 mh last year. The maize area was 2.3 mh against 810,000 hectares a year ago.

Acreage under cash crops like sugarcane and cotton was 5.68 mh and 5.9 mh, respectively, compared with 5.5 mh and 601,000 hectares a year ago. Farmers planted jute and mesta across 562,000 hectares against 601,000 hectares a year ago.

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