The prospects for a bumper wheat crop this year brightened after farmers brought more acreage under the cereal crop in the ongoing rabi season.
The increase in acreage was mainly seen in the major producing States of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Apart from favourable weather, the increase in sown area in Uttar Pradesh, the largest wheat-producing State, where planting is still going on, is seen aiding the crop output.
As per the latest data released by the Agriculture Ministry, wheat acreage stands at 309.60 lakh hectares, a 7.1 per cent increase over the corresponding year-ago period.
“We have exceeded last year’s acreage by over one million hectares and are progressing towards an all-time high. The prevailing low temperatures are favourable for the crop’s growth. Considering an average yield of over 3.1 tonnes per hectare, we could be meeting the targeted 96.5 million tonnes,” said GP Singh, Director of the Karnal-based Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research.
Singh said weather conditions during February-March will play a crucial role in deciding the crop yield. Last year, the wheat acreage stood at 297 lakh hectares.
Temperatures have been plummeting across the northern parts of the country in recent days, aiding the wheat crop which is in the tillering stages, Singh said.
“There is another round of rainfall forecast in the Indo-Gangetic plains, which is seen as favourable for the crop,” he added. Further, there is no outbreak of a major pest or diseases across the key growing regions. Though there was an instance of yellow rust in a farmer’s field in Gurdaspur, Punjab, it was not on a major scale. Adequate precaution has been taken to contain the spread of the disease, Singh added.
“Although the government’s target of 96.5 million tonnes is quite optimistic, there is no room for pessimism at this point in time because of the increased acreage and prevailing favourable climate.
“However, this year’s crop size will depend on the weather conditions during February-April,” said MK Dattaraj, Managing Director, Krishna Flour Mills, Bengaluru, and past-president of Roller Flour Millers Federation of India.
Though the government had estimated the 2015-16 crop at 93.5 million tonnes, the trade felt that the actual output was lower and the shortages have led to prices rising in the recent months.
The government removed the duty on imports last month to boost supplies of the cereal. So far, wheat imports into the country have been estimated at over two million tonnes from countries such as Australia, Ukraine, Russia, and Bulgaria.
Trade sources estimate that another 1-1.5 million tonnes of wheat could come into the country over the next couple of months.