Rice crisis in the country?
Rice coverage has declined since last year, even though overall crop coverage has increased. Among the reasons is the lack of rainfall in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. In any case, adequate stocks and a wider area of cultivation suggest there should be no cause for concern.
Despite the southwest monsoon’s revival this month, the area sown under Kharif crops has exceeded last year’s coverage for the same period from June to mid-July. At 128.50 lakh hectares (LH) as of July 15, paddy (rice) acreage was 17.4% lower than last year’s 155.53 LH. According to government godowns, there were over 47.2 million tonnes (mt) of rice in July.
Those stocks were nearly three-and-a-half times the minimum level required to meet “operational” (public distribution system) and “strategic reserve” (exigency) requirements. In spite of last year’s record crop, rice stocks remain close to their peaks.
Wheat stocks, however, have plunged from all-time highs to 14-year lows in the space of a year (see table). It would be a nightmare for inflation-haunted policymakers to see the wheat story repeated in rice. It was a single bad crop – the one damaged by the March-April 2022 heat wave – that caused all the damage to wheat stocks.
As the world’s biggest exporter of rice (a record 21.21 mt valued at $9.66 billion were shipped out during the fiscal ended March 2022) and India’s largest agricultural crop (over 40% of the total foodgrain output), the stakes are higher. If rice production is short, the options for import are limited since India accounts for more than 40% of the global rice trade.
The seeds of paddy are first sown in nurseries, where they are grown into young plants. In 25-35 days, these seedlings are uprooted and replanted in the main field, which is usually ten times the size of the nursery seed bed. Sowing of nursery plants usually occurs before the monsoon rains. Transplantation requires standing water, so farmers wait for their arrival before plowing or tilling the field. In order to control weed growth in the early stages of a crop, the water depth should be maintained at 4-5 cm for the first three weeks after transplanting.
It wouldn’t be possible without the monsoon, which has been good this year. Between June 1 and July 17, the country received 353.7 mm of rainfall, 12.7% more than the “normal” historical average.
Despite this, a vast paddy-growing belt from Uttar Pradesh to West Bengal has received very little rainfall. In West UP, rainfall has been 55.5% below the long-term average, while in East UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Gangetic West Bengal, rainfall has been 70.5%, 45.8%, 48.9%, and 45.1% below the long-term average.
In UP, farmers have transplanted only 26.98 LH under paddy as of July 15, compared with 35.29 LH at the same time last year. Bihar (from 8.77 hectares to 6.06 hectares), West Bengal (4.68 hectares to 3.94 hectares), and Jharkhand (2.93 hectares to 1.02 hectares) also reported lower acreages. With the monsoon turning the corner in these regions, the gap should narrow in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and eastern Madhya Pradesh as well.
So far, the western and eastern subdivisions in UP have received only 90 mm and 79.6 mm of rainfall, respectively.
As per Ajay Kumar Singh, a farmer from Emiliya village in Chandauli district of eastern UP bordering Bihar, paddy nursery sowing usually occurs from June 1 to June 10, and transplanting from July 1 to July 10. There was some rain towards the end of June but little afterward. Seedlings should leave the nursery in 25-35 days, as they will age and not have enough time to grow in the main field afterward. In the absence of water, how will farmers transplant?” he stated.
“Forget transplanting; most farmers with limited irrigation facilities have seen even their nurseries dry up,” said Bal Mukund Lohia, from Magardaha village in the neighboring Sonbhadra district.
In the end, farmers may well have to start from scratch when it comes to raising nurseries, according to Dr. A K Singh of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute in New Delhi. However, they will have to plant shorter duration varieties (seed-to-grain maturity) instead of 155 days. According to him, that would result in less yield per hectare of 1-2 tonnes.
It is interesting to note that paddy cultivation under delayed rainfall is also practiced by farmers with basic irrigation access in eastern UP using the ‘Sanda’ double-transplanting method. The seedlings are uprooted after 25 days in the nursery and replanted in a puddled field that is only about twice the size of the nursery. As soon as the plants are established, they begin tillering, which rejuvenates them for 15-20 days. During the rainy season, they are again uprooted and replanted in a field ten times the size of their original nursery.
Paddy yields are said to be better with Sanda than with one-step transplanting. This is due to the fact that Sanda plants have already tillered, and their establishment in the main field would be near 100% with little mortality. “Yields are 15-20% higher, but that is offset by higher costs due to the double payment of transplanting labor. Only in today’s delayed monsoon situation does Sanda make sense,” Lohia said.
Not at the moment. According to the India Meteorological Department, the current monsoon trough, which is active and south of its normal position, will move gradually northwards from tonight (Sunday). Within a few days, that should provide much-needed relief to farmers in the Gangetic plains.
Secondly, paddy cultivation occurs across a wider geographic area than wheat cultivation, which is restricted to a few states north of the Vindhyas. As well, rice is a Kharif crop (monsoon) and a rabi crop (winter-spring). As a result, losses in one area or season can potentially be recouped in another. Farmers, traders, and policymakers were all surprised by the sudden surge in temperatures that cut grain yields by a fifth or more after mid-March. There is less likelihood of a huge negative surprise with rice. As long as the stocks remain the same, they should be manageable.
Who is the drug lord?
Quintero was one of the godfathers of Mexican drug trafficking and cofounder of the Guadalajara Cartel, considered one of Latin America’s most powerful drug trafficking groups.
Rafael Caro Quintero, who was convicted in 1985 for torturing and murdering a US Drug Enforcement Administration agent, was captured by Mexico’s navy on Friday.
As a helicopter crashed in Sinaloa, Mexico’s drug-trafficking hotbed, at least 14 military personnel died.
As far as the DEA is concerned, it is probably one of the most significant captures in the last decade,” said Mike Vigil, the DEA’s former chief of international operations.
As one of the godfathers of Mexican drug trafficking, Caro Quintero founded the Guadalajara Cartel – once regarded as one of Latin America’s most powerful drug trafficking outfits. During its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, the group trafficked cocaine, heroin, and marijuana from Mexico to the US.
The Netflix series ‘Narcos: Mexico’ focused on the early days of the Mexican drug cartels.
There were ties between the Guadalajara cartel and Pablo Escobar, and other Colombian cocaine producers. After a law enforcement crackdown following the kidnapping of the US DEA agent, the syndicate disintegrated.
Nevertheless, he was no longer considered a significant player in international drug trafficking.
In 2018, the FBI added the infamous drug lord to its top 10 most wanted list, with a $20 million reward. In 1985, the US accused him of brutally torturing and murdering US DAE agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. According to CNN, Camarena was killed after Mexican authorities raided Caro Quintero’s 2,500-acre marijuana farm in 1984.
As a result of the case, the Reagan administration scaled back cross-border trade between the United States and Mexico. A month after his abduction, Camarena’s body was discovered dumped in Michoacan state with signs of torture. In addition to his 40-year prison sentence, Caro Quintero spent 28 years in prison for the murder he denied committing.
Despite the fact that he should have been tried in a state court, not a federal court, he was released in 2013 on a technicality by a Mexican judge. The US was angered by his release, and Mexico promised to nab him again. During this time, the Mexican Supreme Court overturned the decision to release him.
By then, he had returned to drug trafficking activities and had gone underground. A record reward for a drug trafficker’s capture was announced after this led to him being added to the ‘most wanted list of the US.
According to Attorney General Merrick Garland, the United States would seek the immediate extradition of Caro Quintero. Those who kidnap, torture, and murder American law enforcement have no hiding place. It is with deep gratitude that we thank Mexican authorities for capturing and arresting Rafael Caro-Quintero.” Garland said.
Caro Quintero is believed to be held in the Mexican prison Altiplano.
edited and proofread by nikita sharma