New Delhi: Rice production during this kharif season is expected to be lower than last year's level due to insufficient rains, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said on Thursday.

Rice production stood at a record 91.53 million tones in the kharif (summer) season of 2011-12 crop year (July-June).

"Last year's kharif rice production was exceptionally good. We may not reach the last year's level but it will definitely cross the all-India average," Pawar said.

The average all-India rice production is around 81 million tonnes, as per the Agriculture Ministry data. The expected fall in rice production is because of drop in sowing area of paddy to 36.2 million hectare so far, as against 37.9 million hectare in the year-ago period.

Pawar further said even production of coarse cereals and pulses is expected to be lower than last year's level due to poor rains and drought in some parts of the country.

However, production of cotton and sugarcane is likely to be better than last year, he added.

Kharif sowing is nearing an end and the harvesting will start from next month. The Agriculture Ministry will release the first advance estimate of kharif foodgrains production next week.

Earlier on Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Ashish Bahuguna had said the government is finding it difficult to meet the foodgrain production target for the current kharif season because of poor monsoon.

Monsoon, the lifline of Indian agriculture, has revived in last one month but Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan continue to face deficit rain. Monsoon deficit has declined to 7 percent so far, from 22 percent a month back.     

During the 2011-12 kharif, coarse cereals output stood at 32.26 million tonnes, pulses at 6.16 million tonnes and oilseeds at 20.78 million tonnes. Output of cotton and sugarcane was at 35.2 million bales and 357.6 million tonnes, respectively.

(Agencies)

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