New Delhi: The country’s wheat crop, the world’s second biggest, needs favourable weather in northern growing areas in the next fortnight to meet a government production forecast, an agricultural researcher said.
“The temperature was quite high in the first week of the month,” S.S. Singh, a professor at the state-owned Indian Agricultural Research Institute, said in a phone interview on Thursday.
A smaller wheat harvest would put pressure on the government to increase overseas purchases, further supporting world prices that have more than doubled in the past year. Northern Indian states are the biggest producers of wheat in the country which needs supplies to replenish stockpiles.
“The next two weeks are crucial for the wheat crop in northern India,” N.B. Singh, India’s agriculture commissioner, said in a phone interview on Wednesday.
India’s wheat production may drop 1 million tonnes (mt) to 74.81mt in the March- April harvest after farmers planted the crop on a smaller area than in the previous year, the farm ministry had said on 7 February. Current favourable weather conditions should continue or it will affect “grain filling,” possibly reducing the weight of the crop and hurting yields, said S.S. Singh.
The area under winter-sown wheat is 27.73 million ha, compared with 28.21 million ha a year earlier, the farm ministry said on 7 March. The crop is sown from October to December. Temperatures in northern India are now “slightly above normal,” B.P. Yadav, a director at New Delhi-based India meteorological department, said on 11 March.
India may import around 3mt of wheat in the year starting 1 April, Mark Samson, vice-president for South Asia at the US Wheat Associates in Singapore, had said in Bangalore on 7 February. The country has since July imported 1.79mt to build state reserves. Stockpiles at state warehouses may total 5.3mt by 1 April, more than the 4mt needed for emergencies, because of recent imports, according to the Food Corporation of India.
The?government?needs about 15mt annually to distribute to the poor and for emergencies, minister of state for agriculture and consumer affairs, food and public distribution Akhilesh Prasad Singh said in a written reply to a question in Parliament on 10 March. Global inventories of wheat are expected to fall to 110.4mt by 31 May and down 12% from the same time in 2007, the US department of agriculture said on 11 March.