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Wheat production hit by heatwave, Center may limit stock holding




Wheat production hit by heatwave, Center may limit stock holding

To replenish the stock, the government is targeting to procure about 34 million tonnes in 2023. (File)

Niwai, India:

A heat wave in northern and central India at the time of harvest is threatening to damage grains and could reduce the country’s wheat production for the second year in a row.

The move could force the world’s second-biggest producer of the grain to allow imports after banning exports last year.

“Winter is not over yet, but the temperature during the day rises like summer,” said Rameshwar Chowdhary, who has planted wheat on six acres in Niwai village in the northwestern state of Rajasthan.

“We are irrigating the fields to limit the impact, but beyond that there is nothing we can do.”

According to meteorological department data, the maximum temperature in some wheat-growing areas went above 39°C for a few days in February, which was about 10°C above normal.

Chowdhary said that the high temperature has led to early ripening of the crop and the grain may shrink like last year.

India recorded its highest ever maximum temperature in February and the weather office has warned that the country is likely to experience another heatwave in March, especially in the central and northern states, the major wheat-producing states.

Another farmer Gopilal Jat said the heat wave in March could further damage the crop, which is already showing signs of stress.

In 2022, a heat wave in March could reduce India’s wheat production to 100 million tonnes against local consumption of 103.6 million tonnes, the US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service estimates.

India last month forecast wheat production could reach a record 112.2 million tonnes in 2023, but trade bodies are less optimistic due to a heat wave.

Pramod Kumar S, President, Roller Flour Millers Federation of India (RFMFI) said, “High temperature in March could reduce the production by 4 to 5 million tonnes. We are estimating production around 106 to 107 million tonnes.” “

Global and Indian business houses are even more bearish and are forecasting a big drop in production.

“We have reduced the estimate to 103 million tonnes from 109 million tonnes,” said a New Delhi-based dealer with a global trading firm. ,

The dealer said the lower production would keep wheat prices above the government’s procurement price and encourage farmers to sell to private players.

The state’s procurement fell 53% to 18.8 million tonnes in 2022, raising local rates and forcing the state-backed Food Corporation of India (FCI) to pull 5 million tonnes of the grain from its reserves to reduce prices.

But the sales, which are ongoing, will halve government stocks to 10.2 million tonnes at the start of the April-March marketing year, the lowest in six years, the USDA estimates.

To replenish the stock, the government is aiming to procure around 34 million tonnes from farmers in 2023.

RFMFI’s Kumar said, “The government will do everything to ensure food security and keep prices under control. It may even allow imports if needed.”

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