India’s wheat production estimates have been lowered to 105 million tonnes (mt) in view of the yield being affected in central and eastern regions of the country such as Madhya Pradesh, east and central Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar.

Leading the cut in production estimates is the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which said in its Grain and Feed Update on Wednesday that early harvests had led to lower yield in central and eastern States. The USDA pegging the wheat output at 105 mt is against its previous estimate of 107 mt.

The Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare has projected a record wheat output this year at 109.24 mt. Official sources said the estimates released by the Agriculture Ministry stands and any revision could happen only after procurement for buffer stocks are completed.

Early onset of summer this year with daytime temperatures rising to summertime levels from the first week of March hastened the maturity of the wheat crop, the USDA said. Seed setting in States such as Madhya Pradesh, central and eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were affected, it said, adding that early harvests resulted in 3-6 per cent loss in yield.

Two farmers from Indore and Ujjain had told BusinessLine last month that their wheat yields had dropped 20-25 per cent this year.

“The crop output seems to be lower in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, while it is good in Punjab and Haryana,” said Pramod Kumar, Senior Vice-President, Roller Flour Mills Association of India (RFMAI). He pointed out at the procurement of wheat by the Food Corporation of India as an indicator of the production status in these States.

According to data from the Food Corporation of India (FCI), 11.77 mt of wheat have been procured till now from Punjab compared with 11.29 mt last year. In Haryana, FCI has procured 8.05 mt (7.4 mt last year) in Haryana, 1.35 mt (3.57 mt) in Uttar Pradesh, 7.69 mt (12.94 mt) in Madhya Pradesh and 0.88 mt (2.22 mt) in Rajasthan.

So far, the total procurement by FCI and other State agencies is 29.91 mt against 38.99 mt last year. The procurement is continuing and the Centre has fixed 42.73 mt as the target for buffer stocks procurement.

FCI procures wheat at minimum support price (MSP) for maintaining operational and food security stocks. While operational stocks are used for distribution through ration shops, food security stocks are for meeting any emergency such as floods or drought or famine.

According to Kumar, the current procurement figures from Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are, perhaps, indicators of the crop being lower than initial estimates. “We are hearing that the crop is lower than what has been estimated. However, we are not buying since the Centre is buying the wheat arriving in the market under the MSP programme,” said Raj Narayan Gupta, a miller based in North India.

The Centre has fixed the MSP for wheat at ₹1,975 a quintal this year, up by ₹50 from last year. Prices at various agricultural markets across the country are ruling at this level, though superior quality wheat in Madhya Pradesh is ruling above ₹2,000.

The USDA said that absence of heavy rains or hailstorms during the harvesting period of March-April reduced on field losses this year compared with last year. “Usually, we witness heavy breeze or rains during March in parts of Punjab. However, it was totally absent this year. This has helped to achieve better production,” said Suresh Singh Chauhan, General Manager, AMDD Foods Private Ltd at Tarn Taran in Punjab.

Chauhan said the weather had been good throughout the rabi season helping in a healthy growth of the crop. “The crop is good in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in view of a conducive climate,” he said.

He also said that the area under wheat was higher this year in Punjab since sugarcane area did not witness any increase.

According to the Agriculture Ministry, wheat was cultivated on a record 34.63 million hectares compared with 33.64 million hectares last year. In the last 10 years, the normal wheat acreage has been 30.32 million hectares.

Though wheat production might be lower than initial estimates, it was not a subject of concern as India was carrying huge stocks. As on April 1, the FCI is mandated to hold 4.46 mt of wheat as operational stocks and 3 mt as food security stocks. But the Corporation is carrying a record 27.30 mt of wheat as stocks currently, besides the 29.91 mt procurement it has made from farmers since April 1.

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