Dry spell threatens soybeans in India

Country saw adequate rain in June, but El Nino is holding back monsoon rains

After a rainy spell in June, a July dry spell is threatening soybean crop yields in India.

V.S. Bhatia, director of state-owned Directorate of Soybean Research, said in a report on July 14 that soybeans planted in the past two weeks need rain in the next three to four days or they will have to be replanted. If the delay continues, soybeans will be replaced with lentils, Bhatia said.

The drought is blamed on a strengthening El Nino, which is reducing rainfall from Thailand to India. Drought means the increased possibility of higher food prices and lower oilseed harvests, increasing India’s dependence on palm and soybean oil imports.

The India Meteorological Department says El Nino will keep this year’s monsoon rains at 88 percent of average. Rainfall was 28 percent below average from July 1-12, after a 16 percent surplus in June. About 33 percent of the rain between June and September usually falls in July, making it a critical month for crop growth.

In late June, reports said the rainy spell was expected to boost soybean production by 10 percent from a year ago. At the time, Pravin Lunkad, president of Mumbai-based industry body the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India, said productivity was reliant on “good and timely rainfall.”