Area under wheat rises, govt expects a robust rabi harvest
Farmers have planted wheat, the main winter staple, in approximately 15.2 million hectares till November 28, compared to 13.8 million hectares in the corresponding period of last year.
New Delhi: The agriculture ministry expects a robust rabi or winter-sown harvest, especially of wheat, next year after extreme weather roiled several crops during the 2021-22 season, with the acreage as on November 28 already exceeding 57% of the total normal-sown area, latest official data showed.
Farmers have planted wheat, the main winter staple, in approximately 15.2 million hectares till November 28, compared to 13.8 million hectares in the corresponding period of last year. Higher wheat area has been reported from Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Bihar, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh, the data showed.
Going by the rapid early expansion, the staple’s output could exceed that of last season, analysts said. Sufficient wheat output during 2022-23 will be critical to replenish stocks after a prolonged early-summer heatwave this year cut output of the staple by 3 million tonne, sending the government’s own stocks to a 14-year low and pushing up retail prices.
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India’s wheat output during 2021-22 stood at 106 million tonne, compared to the previous year’s 109 million tonne.
“For wheat, there is an increase in area coverage by 1.4 million hectare over last year and this has been the highest ever since last four years,” an agriculture ministry statement said.
As international wheat prices soared following the Ukraine war, India’s wheat shipments accelerated, prompting the government to ban export in May to stabilize domestic prices. Yet, retail prices of wheat remain elevated.
Prices of wheat flour (atta) have jumped 17% in the past one year due to a shortage of the staple in open markets, millers have said, urging the government to release grains from its own reserves.
Lower supplies have led wheat flour prices -- at an all-India daily average retail price of ₹36.98 per kg -- to almost equal to that of rice, which stands at ₹37.96 per kg, according to data from the consumer affairs ministry.
After a heatwave shriveled winter crops this year, a patchy monsoon shrunk the paddy area by 4%. Farmers also planted marginally lesser area under pulses, another essential item during the summer-sown kharif season.
“If the current trends hold, the wheat area and, as a result, the total production are likely to be marginally higher than last year. If the ban on wheat export continues till next year, then prices will be lower and the government’s procurement of wheat will be higher than the last season,” said Rahul Chauhan, an analyst with IGrain Pvt Ltd, a commodity trading firm.
Based on brisk sowing on rabi crops, the food ministry last week projected that by the end of March 2023, the government will have 11.3 million tonnes of wheat and 23.6 million tonne of rice, which will be sufficient to meet all requirements for food hand-outs under the public distribution system.
The total area planted during the ongoing rabi season so far, at 35.8 million hectare (which is 57% of the normal rabi area), is up 2.41 million hectare compared with the year-ago period, according to the data.
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Area planted with oilseeds has increased by 13.58% at 7.57 million hectares, against 6.6 million hectare in the year-ago period. Pulses acreage currently is marginally lower than last year at 9.42 million hectares, against 9.43 million hectare in the corresponding period of the previous year.
Total coarse cereals were sown in 2.65 million, while winter paddy has been planted in 900000 hectares, the data showed.
Water storage in 143 nationally important reservoirs critical for irrigation stood at 149.49 billion cubic metres in the week ending November 24, which is 106% of the corresponding period of last year and 119% of average storage of last 10 years, the agriculture ministry data stated.