New Delhi: India’s foodgrain production during the rain-fed kharif season is estimated at a record 141.6 million tonnes in 2018-19, raising chances that wholesale crop prices will continue to hover low ahead of crucial elections in states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

The first advance estimate of crop production issued by the agriculture ministry on Wednesday showed that output of foodgrains is 11.9 million tonnes higher than the average production of 129.7 million tonnes between 2012-17.

However, foodgrain production in 2018-19—which includes rice, pulses and coarse grains—is just 0.6% more than the previous record of 140.7 million tonnes in kharif 2017-18.

The 2018-19 kharif season will mark the third consecutive year of record food production since 2016-17, which led to a plunge in crop prices fuelling protests by farmers across the country. Wholesale food prices declined 4.04% in August from a year earlier.

Following the record harvest, the centre’s costs towards supporting prices are likely to rise if wholesale prices continue to remain lower than the government-announced minimum support prices (MSP). In July, the centre raised MSPs significantly to ensure that farmers receive a price that is at least 50% more than their farming costs.

According to the latest estimates, sugarcane production is estimated at 383.9 million tonnes in 2018-19, about 2% more than last year. Production of rice, the main kharif crop, is likely to increase 1.8% to 99.2 million tonnes in 2018-19. Farmers, however, are likely to harvest a marginally lower volume of pulses—9.2 million tonnes in kharif 2018-19, compared to 9.34 million tonnes last year.

Among non-foodgrains, production of kharif oilseeds are estimated to rise 5.7% to 22.2 million tonnes in 2018-19, from 21 million tonnes last year. Production of cotton is likely to fall by 7% from 35 million bales (one bale equals 170kg) last kharif to 32.5 million bales this year, the estimates showed.

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