Mumbai: India, the world’s second biggest wheat grower, aims to produce a record quantity of grain for a second year by encouraging farmers to use high-yielding seeds and early sowing.
The government has set a target of 78.5 million tonnes (mt), compared with an estimated 78.4mt this year, the ministry of agriculture said on its website on Monday.
Wheat, sowed in October and harvested in March and April, accounts for more than 70% of the nation’s winter-sown grain output.
A record harvest may help Prime Minister Manmohan Singh head off a food shortage that pushed inflation to a 16-year high last month. The country imported 1.79mt of wheat since July 2007 to build its stockpiles, helping fuel last year’s 77% gain in prices on the Chicago Board of Trade.
Wheat has fallen 46% from a record $13.495 (Rs612.67) a bushel set on 27 February after growers from Australia to India seeded more of the grain to capitalize on prices. Wheat for December delivery rose as much as 2.2% to $7.3375 in after-hours trading on the Chicago Board of Trade on Monday.
The country will use 909,000 tonnes of wheat from its reserves to ensure domestic supplies are adequate during the festival season that starts next month, the government said last week.
Wheat yields have saturated in the biggest-growing regions because of a drop in soil fertility, the ministry said. Farmers produce an average of between 2.5 tonnes and 3 tonnes of wheat per hectare, compared with about 5 tonnes in the US and China. Output can be increased in other regions using high quality seeds and completing sowing by November end, it said.
Farmers may boost wheat planting because of above-average rain, agriculture secretary T. Nanda Kumar said in an interview last month.
Monsoon, which accounts for four-fifths of the country’s annual showers, was 11% above normal in the week ended 17 September, the meteorological department said on its website. Rains since 1 June are 2% below a 50-year average, a level deemed normal, the agency said on 18 September.