GIEWS Country Brief: India - Reference Date: 9-August-2019

Report
from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Published on 09 Aug 2019

FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT

  • Late and erratic monsoon rains affecting planting of 2019 “Kharif”crops
  • Rice exports in 2019 forecast at high level
  • Prices of rice and wheat increased generally in past three months, amid large Government procurement
  • Food security and livelihoods of millions of people affected by major floods in the north and south

Late and erratic monsoon rains affecting planting of 2019 “Kharif” crops

Planting of the 2019, mostly rainfed, “Kharif” paddy crop started in May and is expected to continue until the end of August and to be harvested between September 2019 and January 2020. The 2019 southwest monsoon, spanning normally from June to September, started with a delay of one week and has been characterized by erratic rains. Persistent dry weather conditions have been reported in the states Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu in the southeast, as well as in West Bengal in the north, where cumulative below‑average rainfall between May and July has hampered planting activities. Above‑average rains in northeastern Bihar and Assam states in July mitigated moisture deficits and allowed plantings to reach the above‑average levels in non‑flooded areas. These torrential rains also triggered floods and landslides resulting in localized agricultural damages. Overall, in early August, official reports indicate that nationwide 22.4 million hectares have been planted with paddy, about 12 percent below the previous year’s level. If well distributed and adequate rainfall for the remainder of the monsoon season occurs, the final planted area with “Kharif” paddy in 2019 is anticipated to catch up with the average level attained in 2018. Farmers had initially targeted a high level of plantings, amid remunerative farm gate prices, and the recently announced increase of the Minimum Support Prices for the 2019/20 “Kharif” procurement season (see FPMA Food Policies ) is likely to add support to their sowing plans.

Planting of the 2019 main “Kharif” maize crop is underway and is expected to be completed by August. As of early August, the planted area amounted to 6.9 million hectares, close to the average. Outbreaks of Fall Armyworm (FAW), which were first detected in the country in 2018, have been reported in few states during the current 2019 “Kharif” season, mainly in northeastern Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland states, and northern West Bengal and Chhattisgarh states, which are minor maize producing areas. The impact over the maize output is estimated to be marginal, as the agricultural authorities have implemented nationwide precautionary measures.

Harvesting of the 2019 “Rabi” wheat crop was completed in June and production is officially estimated at record 101.2 million tonnes, 7 percent above the five‑year average. The production increase reflects record yields, due to favourable weather conditions, that more than compensate a slightly below‑average planted area.

Rice exports in 2019 forecast at high level

The country remains the world’s largest rice exporter. Rice exports in the 2019 calendar year are forecast at high 12.1 million tonnes, 6 percent above the five‑year average and the second highest level on record, reflecting bumper availabilities from the 2018 harvest.

Prices of rice and wheat increased recently, amid large Government procurement

Retail prices of rice were overall stable between January and April 2019. Subsequently, they increased or remained stable between May and June due to large Government procurement that more than offset the downward pressure from the arrival into the market of the supplies from the “Rabi” crop harvest. According to official estimates, as end of July, the Government had procured about 65.5 million tonnes of paddy, accounting for about 36 percent of the total annual output. In July, prices decreased slightly or remained stable reflecting adequate market availabilities.

Retail prices of wheat increased between the second half of 2018 and February 2019, due to seasonal upward pressure, and declined between March and May with the commercialization of the 2019 record wheat “Rabi” crop output. In June and July 2019, prices edged up, reflecting large Government purchases. As of early July, the concluded 2018/19 “Rabi” wheat procurement was officially estimated at 34.1 million tonnes, about a third of the annual wheat production.

Food security and livelihoods of millions of people affected by major floods in the north and south

Torrential rains during the first two dekads of July triggered severe floods mainly in Assam and Bihar states in the north and in the Kerala State in the south. According to UN‑OCHA, as of 25 July, 20.8 million people were severely affected and about 428 000 people were displaced. Large scale damages to houses, infrastructure and cropped land were reported. In the third dekad of July, the flood levels in the Assam and Bihar states decreased as rains eased, but concerns remain about the restoration of livelihoods and food security conditions of the most vulnerable households. In the southern Kerala State, where the results of impact assessments are not yet available, the flood situation is deteriorating as above‑average rainfall persist especially in northern districts.