India wheat output may hit record for seventh year

Cold weather, domestic prices boosting yield prospects and planting

India’s wheat output may hit record numbers for the seventh year as cold weather increases potential yields and record domestic prices encourage planting and potential future exports, according to reports

Better soil moisture and below-average temperatures in the main growing states of Punjab and Haryana since the end of December 2012 have been beneficial for the crop, said Indu Sharma, director at the Directorate of Wheat Research. The harvest starting from April may climb from an already all-time high of 93.9 million metric tons in 2011–2012, she said.

A bigger harvest could bring the government to pare stockpiles through exports and vacate warehouses for the new crop. Rising supplies from India may help partly make up for the potential crop losses from the U.S. to Argentina and Australia to dry weather and cap global food costs tracked by the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization. 

Prices in India rose 29 percent in 2012 after exports rose and the government increased the minimum price paid to farmers to a record. The contract for delivery in February fell as much as 0.6 percent to 1,494 rupees (US$27) per 100 kilograms on the National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange Ltd. in Mumbai on January 9. The contract for delivery in March fell as much as 0.3 percent to $7.4825 per bushel in Chicago on January 9.

Farmers planted wheat in 28.6 million hectares as of January 4, compared with 28.2 million hectares the same time in 2012, according to the farm ministry. Weather is set to remain favorable for crop development in the coming weeks, said L.S. Rathore, director general of the India Meteorological Department.

India’s inventories of wheat totaled 34.4 million tons as of January 1, more than the minimum 11.2 million tons required to be held for emergencies and strategic reserves, according to the Food Corp. of India. The government bought 38.1 million tons of wheat from farmers in 2012–2013.