Rabi maize acreage may fall 15% as soil moisture low

Cogencis, Wednesday, Nov 21
By Shilpa Sharma and Kaushal Verma
NEW DELHI – The area under maize across the country in the ongoing rabi season is likely to be 15% lower than in 2017-18 (Jul-Jun), when the acreage was at 1.67 mln ha, a senior government official said.

The expected decline is primarily due to inadequate moisture in the soil.

"Maize sowing is lagging on year and it is unlikely to catch up with the last rabi season's level. Higher-than-normal day temperatures and inadequate southwest monsoon rains in key growing areas may deter farmers from growing more crop," the official said.

In the southwest monsoon season this year, India received 9% below-normal rains, missing the India Meteorological Department's prediction by a huge margin. 

As of Thursday, the area under rabi maize across the country was down 20.9% on year at 340,400 ha, according to data released by the agriculture ministry. This was lower than the five-year average of 355,200 ha for the period.

The acreage saw a decline in Bihar and Maharashtra, India's top rabi maize growing states.

An annual fall in acreage and concerns about a drop in yield due to moisture stress are expected to bring down the rabi maize output in 2018-19 by up to 30%, the official said.

In 2017-18, the country had produced 8.47 mln tn of rabi maize, as per the government's fourth advance estimate.

The likely fall in maize acreage this year, despite a higher minimum support price, is also because some pockets of the country suffered crop loss due to a fall armyworm pest attack, the official said.

"The armyworm pest attack is more likely to take place in the rabi season, as weather conditions are congenial for its outbreak," a government agricultural scientist said.

Such pest attacks on the maize crop were reported in Karnataka and its neighbouring states this kharif season.

Originally found in North and South America, the fall armyworm pest made its way to Nigeria in 2016, probably through imports. Within two years, it spread to 44 countries in the continent, damaging up to 20 mln tn of maize a year, and threatening food security in many countries.

"If we witness the outbreak of armyworm attack during rabi, its spread would be rapid as cold and moist weather conditions are congenial for its spread," the scientist said.

Maize is sown in both kharif and rabi seasons, and mostly used as food, starch, and feed for livestock.  End

Edited by Avishek Dutta

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