The production of rice, the primary cereal crop grown during the kharif season, is expected to decrease by 3.79 percent in the 2023-24 season, yielding an estimated 106.31 million tonnes compared to the final estimate of 110.5 million tonnes in 2022-23. This decline is attributed to an irregular monsoon, despite an above-average acreage. The initial advanced estimate for kharif foodgrain production, recently released, suggests that there might be a reduction in the production of all major kharif crops for the current year, with moong, urad, soybean, and sugarcane being the most affected.
This decline is a result of a prolonged dry spell in August and irregular monsoon conditions at the beginning of the season. Earlier, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) had indicated that rice production for the kharif season might decrease by at least two million tonnes. It’s worth noting that the initial production assessment for 2023-24 (Kharif) relies heavily on the average yield of the past three years and is subject to revision once actual crop-cutting experiments provide yield estimates. Regarding the reduction in rice production, the official statement released recently mentioned that the area under rice cultivation is estimated to be approximately 200,000 hectares higher than the previous year’s final estimate and around 450,000 hectares more than the average rice cultivation area.
The statement also indicated that rice production is projected to exceed the average output of the past several years. Nevertheless, a substantial drop in Kharif production could complicate the government’s efforts to tackle food inflation and potentially heighten the reliance on imports for essential items such as edible oils and pulses. The southwest monsoon for this year exhibited a highly irregular and skewed pattern, largely influenced by the adverse impact of El Niño. Initially, the monsoon arrived late and failed to gain significant momentum, resulting in nearly a 9 percent shortfall in June. Subsequently, when rainfall did intensify, it was abundant, leading to a surplus of 13 percent in July. However, the monsoon experienced a significant hiatus in August, resulting in a record 36 percent deficiency for the month, one of the highest in recent history.
Just as the nation was preparing for conditions resembling a drought, the rains made a return in September. From a statistical standpoint, the monsoon season from June to September concluded with a deficit of 5.6 percent, classifying the 2023 monsoon as ‘below normal,’ marking the first time in over four years. Cumulatively, rainfall across India from June 1 to September 30 amounted to around 821 millimeters, compared to the normal level of 869 millimeters. This means that the monsoon season concluded with rainfall equivalent to 94 percent of the Long Period Average (LPA).