Untimely rains have worried wheat farmers as they anticipate a decline in yield, production and quality. File photo of a farm worker harvesting wheat in Gurugram | Photo credit: PTI
The story so far: The unusual rise in mercury in February this year, followed by an untimely period of widespread rains accompanied by gusty winds and hailstorms during the month of March in parts of the country’s major grain producing states – Punjab, Haryana , Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar and Gujarat – have left wheat farmers worried as they anticipate lower yield (productivity), output (production) and quality.
How will the rains affect the wheat harvest?
According to the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), fairly widespread rains accompanied by stormy winds of 40 to 50 kilometers per hour hit several parts of the country’s major wheat producing states during the month of March, under the influence of consecutive western disturbances. Rain events accompanied by winds are not considered a good sign for the health of the crop if they are close to the stage of maturation and harvest, especially if there are cases of waterlogging of the fields. Unfortunately, there have been instances of crop flattening in the fields, in addition to waterlogging, which could be detrimental to the wheat crop ready for harvest. Wheat, a key rabi (winter) crop, is sown between late October and December; it approaches the ripening stage in mid-March, and harvesting of early-sown varieties usually begins at the end of March itself. IMD data suggests that between March 1 and April 9, excessive heavy rain (40% more rain than normal) was received in several states.
How much production would be affected?
Agriwatch, an agricultural commodity research company, said in its latest report that due to recent untimely rains, the country’s wheat production in the 2022-23 agricultural year is expected to be 102.9 MT, which is lower than the Union Government estimate of 112 MT. The Centre, however, is optimistic that wheat production would be close to 112 MT due to an increase in wheat acreage (area) and better yield this season, despite a slight loss in production due to recent conditions. unfavorable weather. According to the government, the average wheat area this year (2022-23) was 14,86,240 hectares more than the last five years (2017-2021) which stood at 30,382,010 hectares.
What are the agro-experts saying?
A significant part of the farmers say that the bad weather has adversely affected the harvest of standing wheat.
Indu Sharma, former director of the Indian Wheat and Barley Research Institute (IIWBR), based in Karnal, Haryana, says: “It was not just the untimely rains in March, but the unusually warmer temperature high in February this year which also hurt Wheat. Now, after the rains and winds, wherever the crop has flattened, it will be difficult to recover it, which will eventually affect the crop yield. ”
Moreover, if the country’s wheat production falls below the government’s estimate, it could lead to higher prices of wheat and wheat-based products in the domestic market, says Rajesh Paharia Jain, a trader and exporter. of wheat based in New Delhi. He adds that any drop in wheat production can also lead to a potential food security problem.
An agricultural expert and former member of the Uttar Pradesh Planning Commission, Sudhir Panwar says that if the government says that wheat production will not be seriously affected due to bad weather, it means that the purchase policy of wheat would remain the same as last year. “In such a scenario, the private actor will purchase wheat at the minimum support price (MSP) or with an incentive. replenish its stock of food grains. If production is lower, the possibility of government intervention in the market is also quite bleak as its priority would be to maintain the buffer stock,” he says.