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NEW DELHI : The total area under wheat cultivation jumped 25% as on 10 November, compared to the same period last year, according to fresh data, raising hopes of a bountiful crop of the main winter staple that is currently in short supply.

Acreages of most rabi or winter-sown crops stand higher than last year, farm ministry data showed. However, a warmer-than-average winter so far remains a concern for farmers because wheat needs consistently cold temperatures of around 15-16 degrees Celsius during the initial stages, analysts said.

The India Meteorological Department last week released its winter weather forecast, predicting normal to above-normal temperatures for northwest Indian states, such as Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, the main wheat growers. According to the latest data from the agriculture ministry, wheat has been sown in around 25.57 million hectares, compared with 20.39 million hectares in the same period last year.

During the full course of the rabi or winter-sown season, wheat is sown on about 31 million hectares overall.

“Farmers anticipate a high demand for wheat and a bullish market next year. This is the main reason for a jump in wheat acreage. However, warm weather remains a concern," said Rahul Chauhan, an analyst with IGrain India Pvt Ltd, a Delhi-based commodity trading firm.

A prolonged heat wave in March, coinciding with the harvesting period, crimped India’s wheat output by 3 million tonnes, resulting in a shortfall after many years.

As a result of the heat wave, the average all-India yield of wheat declined in 2021-22 to 3,507 kg/hectare from 3,521 kg/hectare in 2020-21.

Meanwhile, the area under mustard currently is 8.92% more than in the same period last year.

The acreage of gram is nearly 3% more, the data showed. The total area under pulses is also expanding at a robust pace, currently 2.8% more than last year, according to the data.

The total area sown under rabi crops has increased from 45.7 million hectares to 52.6 million hectares. This difference of 6.8 million hectares translates to 15% more acreage this year than a year earlier.

“The increase in area is across all crops, the maximum being in wheat. Out of 6.8 million hectares increase in all rabi crops, increase in wheat area is 5.1 million hectares," an official said, requesting anonymity because he’s not authorized to speak to the media. After wheat, the next highest increase in area is in oilseeds, a scarce set of items India imports in large quantities. The area under oilseeds increased by 750,000 hectares. The area under coarse cereals, or millets, has seen a jump of 430,000 hectares.

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