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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

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Wheat yield in Rabi season may be lower

Gargi Parsai

NEW DELHI: The Agriculture Ministry is likely to revise its initial estimates of wheat production this rabi for which procurement from Haryana and Punjab is almost over.

Against the original estimate of 74-75 million tonnes, which was downscaled to 73 million tonnes in the middle of the season, it is now expected that the output would be even lesser by about five per cent. "We will be extremely lucky if we touch last year's level of about 72 million tonnes," said a senior official of the Ministry after a meeting here on Monday to assess the situation.

The procurement has fallen short by about a million tonne over last year. Till May 13, wheat procurement by government agencies was 14.7 million tonnes against 15.5 million tonnes during the same period last year. The wheat arrivals in the mandi were 16.4 million tonnes this time of the season in 2004 against 15.5 million tonnes so far this year.

Although no figures have been officially put out for wheat output, the meeting directed the departments concerned to come up with firmed up figures. The lowest wheat output in recent years — 65.10 million tonnes — was recorded during the drought year of 2002-03.

There is no single reason why wheat output may not be up to expectations this rabi. According to experts, the farmers are either hoarding for speculation or the early warm temperatures in November-December may have harmed the crop. The late rains-squall close to harvesting and the brown rust disease may have also hit the standing crop in parts of Punjab and Haryana.

There has been diversification to oilseeds and pulses. At the same time, market interventions of private players such as ITC, Cargill and Tata to procure directly from farmers for their value-added products seems to have affected the arrivals to the mandi. The Government procures from farmers at the rate of Rs. 640 per quintal against the domestic market rate of Rs. 640-700 per quintal.

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