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India Heads for Bumper Wheat Crop

posted Dec 5, 2011, 12:05 AM by Puneet Goyal

NEW DELHI – Wheat sowing in India has picked up pace after a rain-induced slow start and the country is likely to reap a bumper crop, but higher-than-usual temperatures in key regions could slightly hit output.

"The minimum temperatures are slightly high in major producing areas because of foggy conditions," said Indu Sharma, director of the Directorate of Wheat Research. "It will be good if we have a spell of rains around this time" to bring down the temperatures, she added.

India's breadbasket regions in the northern states of Punjab and Haryana usually experience light rains during the winter, but there have been none so far this year.

India, the world's second-largest wheat producer, harvested 85.93 million metric tons of wheat in 2010-11, topping its production target of 80 million tons for the year.

The target for this year is 84 million tons and Farm Secretary P.K. Basu said there is no reason why India won't exceed that. "Weather, so far, is favorable. Water reserves are excellent and fertilizers are in place," he said.

Mr. Basu didn't say whether India would top last year's production level. In October, he had said output could be 86 million tons.

He said 43% of wheat sowing has been completed.

Wheat sowing usually starts by October and the harvest begins in March-April. Wheat is sown only during one season, while rice, the other main grain staple, is planted both in summer and winter, though mostly during summer.

Higher output could help India export wheat in coming months. Its shipments have been less than 160,000 tons since a ban on exports was lifted in September, as local prices have edged past international levels.

In October, India raised the minimum price for wheat purchases from farmers by about 15% to 1,285 rupees ($24.83) per 100 kilograms in order to encourage farmers to plant the crop in more areas.

India is hoping its total foodgrain output will rise to a record 245 million tons this crop year.

The government is preparing to roll out a food security program that guarantees cheap grains to most of India's population.

Write to Rajesh Roy at and Biman Mukherji