Wheat output may drop for 2nd year straight due to warm winter

Wheat production in India, the world's second-largest producer, is likely to fall below 90 million tonnes (MT) for the second year in a row in 2015-16 due to an unusually dry and warm winter.

Wheat output had declined to 88.95 MT in 2014-15 due to to poor monsoon and unseasonal rains in February-March, as against a record 95.85 MT achieved in the previous year.

Sowing of wheat, a major rabi (winter) crop, begins from October and harvest starts from April.

"Wheat sowing is lagging behind as there is higher temperature stress because of unusually dry and warm winter in the wake of two consecutive drought years. This will impact wheat production by at least 5%," a senior Agriculture Ministry official told PTI.

Area sown under wheat was trailing by 2 million hectare at 27.14 million hectare till December of the ongoing rabi season, as against 29.31 million hectare in the year-ago period, as per the ministry data.

The 2 million hectare lag in wheat area means the production would be down by around 6 million tonnes considering average yield of 2.9 tonnes per hectare achieved in the drought year 2014-15, the official added.

Stating that wheat crop is in "critical stage", Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) Deputy Director General (Crop Science) J S Sandhu said: "High temperature stress particularly reduces yield of wheat. We hope rains in the next 15-20 days can help recover some loss in yields."

High temperature leads to early maturing, thus reducing crop yields. Rain this month would bring down temperature and help in achieving good production, he added.

Currently, the temperature is above normal in wheat growing areas. There is more moisture stress in central India especially Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and parts of Rajasthan.

There is temperature stress because of 14% deficit in the June-September south-west monsoon and 23% deficit in the October-December north-east monsoon, as per the India Meteorological Department.

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