New Delhi: Soybean sowing in the leading oilseed producing state of Madhya Pradesh has been lagging severely even after a month of the onset of sowing season.
According to the kharif sowing data from the Union Ministry of Agriculture, the soybean acreage in MP dipped to 41.86 lakh hectare (LHA) as of 15 July from 51.17 LHA in the year-ago period. This is also less than the 2018 acreage, which stood at 44.41 LHA.
The fall in the leading producer state has brought down overall acreage of this crucial oilseed in this country. As of 15 July, the nationwide soybean acreage went down to just 93.22 LHA in 2021 against 105.84 LHA in 2020.
Experts pointed to the twin issues of low monsoon rainfall in peak sowing season and exponential increase in soybean seed prices for the significantly lower acreage this year.
According to Rahul Chauhan, agro commodity analyst at Igrain India, due to high prices and low productivity, farmers have sold out most of the crop this year leaving them with little to sow. “Henceforth they have to procure seed from the market at exorbitant prices,” he said.
“Farmers desperately want to cultivate soybean this year as its prices in domestic as well as international markets have touched record high, be it as soymeal or soybean oil. The oilseed has traded this year above its MSP of Rs 3,950/quintal with an average trading price in the wholesale market between Rs 6,000-6,500/quintal for most of the season,” added Chauhan.
ThePrint earlier reported that soymeal, which is crucial fish and poultry feed, has been sold at record prices, while soybean oil, which is widely consumed in both households and commercial establishments, has seen prices surge by at least 50 per cent since last year.
Costs are up
According to the MP state agriculture department website, the state government procured over 10 lakh tonnes of seeds last year, which has increased to almost 13 lakh tonnes this year.
Out of this, 3.40 lakh tonnes are available at cooperatives and government’s seed centres while the remaining 9-lakh-plus tonnes are available at government’s certified private shops, making farmers more dependent on the latter to procure seeds.
While the government sells the soybean seeds for Rs 4,000/tonne at state-run seed centres and cooperative societies, the private ones sell it for Rs 9,000-12,000/tonne.
Ram Gopal, a farmer in Badnagar, Harda with a five-acre holding said, “The seed cost from private shops in the market has surged to Rs 100-110/kg from Rs 45-60/kg last year. Even at those prices the quality and supply of seed are irregular both at government and private centres. At such a high cost of seed with rising other input costs such as fuel and other chemicals, the farming of soybean will be a total loss.”
He added, “Usually most of the farmers used to help each other with seeds they saved from their products but this year due to massive crop damage caused by unseasonal heavy rainfall last year, there is a very low stock of indigenous seed with farmers. This crop damage has increased prices in the market to record high.”
Dinesh Patidar, a farmer from Ratlam said, “I’m already under a loan of Rs 1.30 lakh from last year’s heavy crop damage due to excessive rainfall last year. The best quality seeds like JS-335 and JS-2034 are around Rs 90-100/quintal and with such high prices of seed we can’t afford to purchase them in markets to continue soybean cropping.”
Low monsoon impact
Apart from exorbitant prices of seeds, low monsoon rainfall has also brought down the acreage. Soybean is one of the most water-intensive crops, requiring around 900 litres of water for 1 kilo worth of produce.
According to reports, fear of drought looms large in parts of Madhya Pradesh, with 35 of the 52 districts being rain-deficient over a month into the season. Some districts are up to 70 per cent short on rainfall.
Bhagwan Meena, convener of the farmer body Kisan Swaraj Sangathan, said, “Monsoon hasn’t arrived adequately in major soybean growing areas of such as Mandsaur, Ratlam, Rajgarh, Guna and Ujjain where sowing is accomplished around 5-10 June… it has been delayed this year.”
According to him, due to low rainfall, acreage has fallen by 50-60 per cent compared to last year with an estimated production dip at 30-40 per cent.
Soybean contributes significantly to the Indian edible oil pool as it contributes by 43 per cent to total oilseeds and 25 per cent to total oil production in the country.
The production of soybean in India is dominated by Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, which contribute 89 per cent of total production while Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat contribute remaining.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)