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India is heading for a fourth consecutive record wheat harvest

07.04.2020 12:21 "Agro Perspectiva" (Kyiv) Following are selected highlights from a report issued by a U.S.Department of Agriculture attache in The New Delhi (India), India is heading for a fourth consecutive record wheat harvest, with marketing year (MY) 2020/21 (April/March) production forecast at 105 million metric tons (MMT). MY 2020/21 rice production is forecast at a near record 117 MMT with average yields. Back-to-back record harvests and government procurements have inflated MY 2019/20 wheat and rice stocks to more than three times desired levels. The Government of India (GOI) is likely to release additional wheat and rice at subsidized prices in CY 2020 and 2021 to reduce stocks to manageable levels. Indian wheat remains uncompetitive in the international market, but exports in MY 2020/21 are forecast higher at 1 MMT on expected higher sales to neighboring countries. Rice exports in MY 2020/21 are forecast to recover to 12 MMT on higher exportable supplies. MY 2020/21 coarse grain consumption is forecast at 45.8 MMT stagnant over last year on weak demand from the poultry sector, which

has been hit by fake news that poultry products can transmit Covid-19.

PRODUCTION

MY 2020/21 Outlook

India is heading for its fourth consecutive record wheat harvest in the upcoming season as a result of favorable weather conditions in major wheat growing areas. Sufficient soil moisture at the time of planting (October-December), low temperatures, and well-distributed rainfall during the growth stage (DecemberFebruary) supported higher planting and productivity prospects. However, excessive rains and a hailstorm in the mid-March caused crop lodging in some areas. Assuming normal weather conditions through harvest (April/May), Post forecasts marketing year (MY) 2020/21 (April/March) wheat production at a record 105 million metric tons (MMT) from 31.1 million hectares (MHa), compared to last years record harvest of 103.6 MMT, largely on higher planting.

Excellent late 2019 monsoon rains and improved availability of irrigation water provided ideal planting conditions prompting farmers to increase the area planted to wheat. The Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfares (MoAFW) second advance estimate released on February 18, 2020, estimated the area planted to wheat at 31.1 MHa, nearly six percent higher than last year, largely in the less irrigation-intensive states of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Gujarat. The GOIs steady increase in the minimum support price (MSP) for wheat, coupled with expanding MSP procurement operations in most states, have encouraged farmers to continue to planting wheat in the rabi (winter planted) season.

Timely planting and the onset of winter in the second week of December (lower temperatures) supported healthy establishment of wheat seedlings. Well-distributed rains and extended low temperature conditions during December through February during critical growth stages (vegetative growth, tillering, flowering, panicle initiation, milking, and seed-setting stages) raised the prospects for higher yield for the upcoming harvest, compared to last years record yields. There have been no major incidence of pests or disease in the major wheat growing areas, except for locust attacks in the state of Rajasthan. However, untimely rains and a hailstorm in mid-March in the norths major wheat producing states reportedly caused crop lodging in several areas, which is likely to impact the overall yield for the upcoming harvest. MoAFWs preliminary estimate (2nd Advance Estimate of Feb 18, 2020), released well before the March rains, forecasts 2020 wheat production at a record 106.2 MMT. Most trade sources have revised their earlier expectation for the upcoming harvest down from 108–110 MMT to 102–105 MMT.

Assuming normal weather conditions from now through harvest (April/May), Post forecasts marketing year (MY) 2020/21 wheat production at 105 MMT, based on an expected slightly lower yield of 3.4 MT/Ha, compared to last years record 3.5MT/Ha. The ongoing relatively extended cold temperature conditions in March may delay the harvest by 1–2 weeks. However, any sudden increase in temperature in April (grain maturity stage) and/or heavy rains/hailstorms during harvest (April/May) could adversely affect yield prospects and lower production from the forecast level.

Farmers prefer growing wheat to other crops in irrigated areas in the wheat growing states because of the «guaranteed» returns on relatively stable market prices and yields, compared to other competing rabi (winter planted) crops (corn, pulses, oilseeds and other coarse grains). Due to the GOIs ongoing MSP procurement program for wheat and rice, wheat prices during the harvest season are expected to remain stable compared to other crops. While weather conditions like temperatures and rainfall during the crop season (November-April) influence yield prospects, wheat productivity is relatively stable under irrigated conditions vis-à-vis other competing crops.

Depending on the availability of irrigation resources and frequency of irrigation, soil conditions, and the adoption of technology, wheat yields show variations across major growing states. For example, wheat yields in largely irrigated northern India (Punjab, Haryana, and Western Uttar Pradesh) are about 4.5 to 5.0 MT, per hectare, while yields in western and central states (Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and central/eastern Uttar Pradesh) are relatively lower at 1.5 to 3.0 MT, per hectare. The perennial river system from the Himalayas replenishes the surface (canal) and ground (tube wells) systems in northern India, ensuring farmers ability to irrigate 5–7 times during the crop season. In comparison, western and central states largely depend on the residual water after the monsoon, ground, and some surface waters (lakes/ponds), so farmers can only manage about 2–4 irrigations.

Indian wheat is characterized as soft to medium hard, medium protein, white bread wheat, and is more or less comparable to U.S. hard white wheat. Wheat from the central and western regions is grown under relatively drier conditions (lower irrigation resources) and has relatively higher protein and gluten in comparison to wheat from northern India

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