Rabi wheat is under-weather

Rabi wheat is under-weather
G Chandrashekhar | Updated on February 08, 2019 Published on February 08, 2019

wheat (commodity)






Crop damage due to unseasonal rain and low acreage seen affecting production
The country’s major Rabi crops — wheat, chickpea and mustard — are facing weather risks. Twice in the last ten days we have had the spectre of unseasonal rain accompanied by hailstorm in major growing regions of the North, including Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Coming on top of lower planted area as of February 1 in case of wheat, pulses (mainly chickpea) and coarse cereals, the unkind weather phenomenon does not bode well. The crop damage is yet to be assessed. Severe hailstorm in Punjab and Haryana in the last two days is said to have damaged the wheat crop. Growers there are a worried lot. The extent of damage will be assessed when the weather improves; and so, it would be speculative to quantify the damage at this point in time.
The planted area under wheat this season is already down by around 10 lakh hectares — which means a loss of about 30 lakh tonnes of wheat. Severe weather, experienced twice in the last ten days, is likely to further reduce the crop size.
It is also to be noted that Indian wheat is at the limit of heat tolerance. Any undue rise in day temperature during January and February can reduce yields by a fifth. We need to develop heat-tolerant varieties that will withstand the adverse effects of climate change.
The Ministry of Agriculture has set a wheat production target of 100 million tonnes for rabi 2018-19. The Wheat Institute recently came out with a prediction of 105 mt of harvest. The production forecast is clearly overstated. The same goes for Agriculture Ministry’s estimate of wheat harvest last year at 99.7 mt. There is consensus within the trade that the crop size is sure to be closer to 92 mt rather than the higher number estimated by the government.
The market is the final arbiter of the harvest size. Wheat prices are trading well above the psychological ₹2,000 a quintal when the procurement price is ₹1,840/quintal. Wheat prices are sure to come under some downward pressure as we move towards harvest. However, weather aberrations may not allow a marked fall in price.
Similar plight for chana, too
A similar situation appears to have arisen in chana. Last year’s harvest size of 11.2 mt is a clear overestimate to the extent of 15 per cent. The trade believes the crop size was closer to 9 mt. For this year, the output target is 10.5 mt and there is reason to believe, the target is most unlikely to be achieved. The area under chana is down by 10 lakh hectares, according to planting data as of February 1. With import restrictions in place, the market must brace for rates moving higher post-harvest.
The silver lining in the emerging situation is that wheat stocks in the Central pool are well above the minimum buffer norms. As of January 1, they were 27 mt , twice the norm for that time of the year. In case of pulses too, the government agencies are holding around two million tonnes of chana and one million tonnes of pigeon pea (tur/arhar). These should be liquidated as early as possible so as to ensure uninterrupted supplies in the market.
The writer is a policy commentator and agribusiness specialist. Views are persona



  • Plot No. 30/25, Knowledge Park - III,
    Greater Noida - 201306, Uttar Pradesh
    (NCR Delhi)-India
  • +91-120-2428800
Designed by Media Solutions