Rabi area rise boosts bumper crop hopes, but warm winter a concern
The total cultivated area under wheat, the main winter staple currently in short supply, jumped 25% as on November 10, compared to the corresponding period of last year, latest official data showed
The total cultivated area under wheat, the main winter staple currently in short supply, jumped 25% as on November 10, compared to the corresponding period of last year, latest official data showed, boosting hopes of a bumper 2022-23 crop. Acreages of most rabi or winter-sown crops stand higher than last year, the farm ministry’s data showed.
However, a warmer-than-average winter so far remains a concern for farmers because wheat needs consistently cold temperatures of at least 15-16 degrees Celsius during the initial stages, experts said.
The India Meteorological Department released its winter weather forecast last week, predicting normal to above-normal temperatures for northwest Indian states such as Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, which grow wheat.
Wheat has been sown in around 25.57 million hectares, compared 20.39 million hectares in the same period last year, farm ministry data show. During the full course of the rabi season, wheat is sown in about 31 million hectares.
“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, a Delhi-based commodities trader.
A prolonged spell of heatwave in March this year, coinciding with the harvesting period, had crimped India’s wheat output by 3 million tonne, resulting in a shortfall after many years. As a result of the heatwave, the average all-India yield of wheat declined in 2021-22 to 3,507 kg per hectare from 3,521 kg per hectare in 2020-21.
The area under mustard currently is 8.92% more than the same period last year. 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 ministry data.
The total area sown under rabi crops has increased from 45.7 million to 52.6 million hectare. This difference of 6.8 million hectare translates to 15% more acreage this year compared to the corresponding period of 2021-22.
“The increase in area is across all crops, maximum being in wheat. Out of 6.8 million hectares increase in all rabi crops, increase in wheat area is 5.1 million hectare,” an official said, requesting anonymity.
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, have seen a jump of 430,000 hectares. This year, the coverage stands at 3.6 million hectares, compared to 3.2 million hectares in 2021-22.