Wheat output falls short of expectation, estimated at 75mt

Wheat output falls short of expectation, estimated at 75mt

New Delhi: The government on Wednesday expressed confidence that wheat production in the current rabi season would touch 75 million tonnes (mt) even as it estimates the area under coverage to dip marginally from last year’s.

“This year, area under wheat may not be less than the normal area, although there may be some reduction in acreage compared with 2006-07, which was an all-time high at 28 million ha (mha)," agriculture commissioner N.B. Singh said. Singh said wheat output is likely to be around 75mt in 2007-08.

Initially, the government had targeted to produce 75.5mt of wheat this year compared with 74.89mt in 2006-07.

Singh estimated the acreage to remain around 27.5mha in the ongoing season. Wheat acreage stood at 17.5mha till 7 December compared with 21.38mha in the year-ago period. The normal area under wheat is 26.2mha.

The area might decline by about 400,000ha in Madhya Pradesh (MP) and 100,000ha in Bundelkhand, Uttar Pradesh (UP), due to drought, Singh added. He noted that output last year could have touched 78mt as there was a record increase in area but high temperature during the grain filling stage and untimely rains in some parts affected the crop.

The sowing in Punjab and Haryana, which accounts for 90% in the procurement for central pool, has been completed and the “crop condition is good", Singh said.

The acreage in Punjab is higher by 30,000ha while it is at normal level in Haryana. There was a delay in sowing by 8-10 days in Rajasthan, MP, Maharashtra and Gujarat due to high temperature.

Singh asserted it was too early to come to any conclusion on wheat acreage as “the season is still on". Wheat sowing starts from October-end and continues till the first week of January.

“By November 30, the wheat acreage was 1.15mha in 2003-04 and 1.35mha in 2005-06 while the coverage in the entire season in both years stood at 26.6mha each," the commissioner said.

The sowing in Bihar and UP is expected to get over by this weekend, he said, adding that by that time the situation would be clearer.

The moisture level is high and this would have a positive impact on the crop, he said, adding that there has been more coverage this season under improved variety of seeds, which has been provided by the Centre under the National Food Security Mission (NFSM).

The commissioner said the government is subsidizing the seeds by Rs5 per kg under the NFSM programme.