New Delhi: Farmers in India have planted the highest ever area under wheat and pulses in the ongoing winter crop season, raising hopes of a bumper crop in 2016-17, surpassing past records. While higher production of foodgrains may help better the agriculture growth rate of 4.1% estimated last month by the statistics department, a record crop will also help keep food inflation in check.
Further, a record area planted under winter crops shows that the cash crunch following demonetisation of high value currency in November did not impact sowing, though poor crop management and adverse weather in the coming months may lead to lower yields.
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According to the latest report on the progress of Rabi (winter) sowing released by the agriculture ministry on Friday, India’s wheat area has climbed to 31.8 million hectares in 2016-17, the highest ever, surpassing the 31.5 million hectares planted in 2013-14. This season’s planting is over 2 million hectares more than last year (2015-16) when a widespread drought led to lower plantings.
Similarly, 16 million hectares have been planted with pulses, close to 2 million hectares more than the normal or five-year average area. Though the area under rice, coarse grains and oilseeds is lower than five-year averages, the total area under winter crops in 2016-17 stands at 64.5 million hectares, marginally higher than the previous record area of 64.4 million hectares achieved in 2013-14.
Indian farmers harvested a record 95.8 million tonnes of wheat in 2014, followed by consecutive years of poor harvest due to adverse weather conditions—86.5 million tonnes in 2015 and 93.5 million tonnes in 2016, according to government estimates. For 2017, the government has set a target of 96.5 million tonnes of wheat production.
Overall, the government has targeted foodgrain production at 270 million tonnes in 2016-17, following a normal monsoon last year, hoping to better the previous record of 265 million tonnes output achieved in 2013-14.
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According to the first advance estimates released by the agriculture ministry in September, production of Kharif foodgrains (2016-17) is expected to rise by 9% year-on-year. A bumper winter harvest means that the overall production target will be within reach.