November 2, 2011
After a delay due to prolonged monsoon rains, India has started sowing wheat with output likely to exceed last year's crop record, two senior government officials said Tuesday (Nov 1).
Wheat output could rise to between 87-90 million tonnes because of better soil moisture, from the estimated 85.93 million tonnes in the last crop year that ended June 30, they said.
"Sowing has started, but it is in the very initial stages," Indu Sharma, director of the Directorate of Wheat Research, told Dow Jones Newswires. "It should pick up between November 5 and November 15. By November 20, most of the sowing will be over."
This year, monsoon rains continued to linger over the country about a month beyond the season's end in September.
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.
Farmers have started sowing wheat in some pockets of the northern grain-bowl states of Punjab and Haryana as most rice fields have been cleared after harvesting. But, 10-15% of the cultivation area is still occupied by the aromatic basmati rice varieties, which are usually harvested after the common grade of rice.
Higher output could help the South Asian country export wheat in coming months. Its shipments have been less than 100,000 tonnes since a ban on exports was lifted in September as local prices have edged past international levels.
India is hoping its total food grain output would rise to a record 245 million tonnes this crop year. The government is preparing to roll out a food security programme that guarantees cheap grains to most of India's population.
India had recently raised by about 15% the minimum price that government agencies must pay to farmers for procuring wheat.
But that may not lead to a rise in the crop's cultivation area because growers feel the increase in price is only marginal, said the second government official, who didn't want to be named.
"The rise in output should come from higher yields," the official said. "There should be no problem in achieving the wheat production target."