Wheat import looms large as unseasonal rains hit output

Agriculture minister says fall in wheat production could touch 5 percent

GN Bureau | April 7, 2015


#wheat   #import   #unseasonal rains   #rabi   #kharif crop  

Photo: Arun Kumar

India imported 80,000 tonnes of Australian wheat recently, the biggest in the last five years due to unseasonal rains, and it may to resort to more imports as country’s wheat output in 2015 likely to fall again.

"There's some initial reports that suggest wheat output could drop by 4 percent to 5 percent due to unseasonal rains," agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said on Tuesday. He was addressing a conference on kharif crops. India has been hit by unseasonal rains during the harvest season.

In February, the ministry's initial estimate put this year's wheat production at 95.76 million tonnes compared with 95.85 million tonnes in 2014. These figures are going to change because the country went through the unseasonal rain cycle again in March. India happens to be world’s second largest wheat producing country.

Unseasonal rains and hailstorms have damaged rabi crops in about 11.3 million hectares of crop area in the country. Total cultivable area in rabi season stands at 60 million hectares, the Minister said.

The government has set up an informal group of ministers, headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, to look into the issue of raising cap of financial assistance given to farmers whose crops have been affected due to unseasonal rains and other natural calamities.

Meanwhile, according media reports Food Corporation of India has refused to procure wheat damaged by rain. FCI officials say they will not procure damaged wheat at minimum support price (MSP) as the crop's quality is very poor.

The corporation has already rejected wheat crop from Kota in Rajasthan where recent rains and hailstorm damaged the crop. FCI which procures wheat from farmers at MSP of Rs 1450 per quintal rejected a large quantity of the produce on the ground that it has lost lustre and does not meet quality norms.

While some farmers are protesting, others have been forced to sell wheat in open market for up to Rs 1390 per quintal.

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