New Delhi, July 6: The monsoon today advanced over India's parched northwestern plains but concerns about paddy and other crops persist among analysts amid a cumulative rainfall deficit across 82 per cent of the country's land area.
Crop scientists said they were worried about delays in paddy transplantation in parts of southern Bengal and Jharkhand where the cumulative rainfall this year since the start of the monsoon stands at 40 per cent below average.
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the monsoon had moved over Uttar Pradesh, parts of Haryana and Punjab, and all of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, and predicted a further advance across the northwest within 24 hours. The IMD said that rainfall would occur "at many places throughout the week" over the west coast, and the central, eastern and northeastern states.
Despite the monsoon's advance, about four-fifths of India is under rain stress with 55 per cent of the land area under deficient rainfall and 27 per cent under scanty rainfall.
"The scarcity of water has hit jute retting, a process to extract the jute fibre," said Bikas Singha Mahapatra, the director of the Central Research Institute for Jute and Allied Fibres in Barrackpore. Jute farmers typically rely on tanks and ponds for retting, he said.
Farmers facing water shortage are thus opting to delay extracting the fibre. Some 80 per cent of jute farmers cultivate rice right after jute, so paddy transplantation may thus also be delayed, Mahapatra told The Telegraph.
The Union agriculture ministry said today that sowing of rice, coarse cereals, and oilseeds this year was "lagging", although rice has been sown over 55 lakh hectares, coarse cereals over 22 lakh hectares and oilseeds over 26 lakh hectares.
"About 60 per cent of farmers in Jharkhand who entirely depend on the rains haven't even started nurseries for rice seedlings," Mukund Variar, a scientist at the Central Rainfed Upland Rice Research Station, Hazaribagh, said.
"But the rains seem to be building up now," Variar added. Farmers would now have to transplant the nursery seedlings into paddy fields early ' 15 to 20 day seedlings ' to aim for respectable yields.
Weather scientists had last week predicted two weeks of active rainfall during July but rainfall over the entire country during the week ending on July 5 has been 49 per cent below average, according to IMD figures released today.
Scientists have said India will need excess rainfall throughout July and August to make up for the cumulative 30 per cent deficit from June 1 to July 5 and accumulate normal rainfall during the four-month monsoon season.
They are concerned that the rainfall during September could be adversely affected by the warming sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, the phenomenon called El Nino.
The Central Water Commission which monitors water levels in 84 key reservoirs across the country, including 37 which have hydroelectric capacity greater than 60MW, said today that the total live storage stands at 57 per cent of the level a year ago.