March 3, 2015
Sluggish wheat output in India seen this year
India's wheat output is expected to slow down again in 2015, extending a period of weak production since 2013.
This threatens to undermine the country's effort to regain its status as a wheat exporter, as deliveries are anticipated to slump for a third consecutive year to 2 million tonnes.
Compounding the situation are worries that wheat output will lag behind consumption as the country's population grows.
According to a forecast by the US Department of Agriculture's bureau in New Delhi, the country will produce 94 million tonnes of wheat in the coming harvest, lower than the 2014 record by 1.9 million tonnes.
The decline has been attributed to soil salinity, seed fatigue and climate change issues.
"Most commonly sown wheat varieties are showing signs of fatigue; the seed replacement rate is around 20%", the bureau said.
The situation may further worsen as about a third of India's 31 million hectares of wheat areas could suffer terminal heat stress due to climate change.
"According to some local research, a one-degree Celsius rise in temperature during the growing season can result in a 3-7% decrease in grain yields", the bureau noted.
Wheat cultivations also face competition from other crops, which require lesser water for growth, as well as future urban developments.
"Overexploitation of ground water and flood irrigation" had induced soil salinity problems in northern India, the bureau explained, adding that tight water supply had compelled farmers to switch to other crops.