'India's 2012-13 foodgrain output to be less than last year's'

Last Updated: Mon, Jan 28, 2013 20:11 hrs

India’s overall foodgrain production in the 2012-13 crop marketing year that would end in June 2013 was expected to be around 250 million tonnes, nine million tonnes less than last year’s revised record output of almost 259 million tonnes because of low production during the kharif sowing season, Agriculture Secretary Ashish Bahuguna said today.

According to the government’s first advanced estimate, foodgrain production during the 2012-13 kharif season is expected to be almost 9.8 per cent less than the kharif production of 2011-12 because of an uneven southwest monsoon in most parts of the country.

However, production of wheat during the ongoing rabi harvest season is expected to near 2011-12’s harvest of around 94 million tonnes. "I am hopeful of achieving last year's wheat output level. Gains in crop yields would depend on good weather in February-March," Bahuguna told reporters on the sidelines of an event here.

The country was able to achieve a bumper wheat crop in the 2011-12 crop year (July-June) as crop yields rose due to conducive weather during February and March, Bahuguna added.

Asked if production would be affected due to a lag in wheat sowing so far, Bahuguna said, "Sowing of major rabi crops including wheat is almost over now. The area under wheat is down by 40,000 hectares as compared to last year. If you compared with average acreage in the last five years, the area coverage is higher by 0.4 million hectares. There is nothing to worry.”

According to official data, the area sown under wheat has declined to 29.4 million hectares so far in the current rabi season, from 29.5 5 million hectares in the year-ago period. Rabi (winter crop) sowing starts from October onwards and harvesting begins from February-end. The government has kept a conservative production target for wheat at 86 million tonnes for the current year. On other rabi crops like coarse cereals, pulses and oilseeds, the secretary said, "Sowing of most rabi crops is over now. Rabi production looks as good as last year.”

States like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are likely to be affected as area under rabi crops is lower, while Karnataka, Rajasthan and Gujarat (which suffered drought during the Kharif season) are doing well, he said.

During the rabi season of the 2011-12 crop year, the country had produced a record 127.5 million tonnes of foodgrains were concerned, Bahuguna said: "We are doing well, especially in chickpea (chana) and mustard seed. Frost damage in mustard seed is insignificant.”

Sowing of crops like wheat, rice, maize and oilseeds like soyabean is taken up well by farmers as the markets for these commodities are developed, he said. However, the same is not the case with minor oilseeds like sunflower and cereals like jowar and bajra, he observed. Overall, rabi crops have been sown in 59.2 million hectares so far compared to 59.1 million hectares at this time last year. Bahuguna also said that the final foodgrains production estimate for last year (2011-12) would be revised upward by less than one per cent from the earlier estimated all-time high of 257.44 million tonnes.

Officials said it could be raised up to 259 million tonnes.

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