The hottest month of March in 122 years has ensured that India’s bumper wheat crop is now severely affected.
The rising temperatures across northern parts of India have cut wheat yields at a time when the country is counting on a bumper crop to tap an export market left struggling with a gap in supply due to the Ukraine war.
Farmers in India have been saying that their per-acre yields (one acre equals 0.40 hectare) have fallen 10-15%, with states like Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh amongst the worst affected. “We saw continuous heat waves just when the crop was ripening. The grains could not become full-bodied due to the extremely hot and dry weather,” Satyendra Yadav, a farmer in Uttar Pradesh, was quoted in Moneycontrol.com. The report cites productivity loss of the winter staple has been pouring in from Punjab and Haryana as well. The yield could be lower by as much as 15 percent, tweeted Ajay Vir Jakhar, farmer and chairman of the Bharat Krishak Samaj, a Punjab-based farmers’ body.
Global export of wheat also down
India was relying on surplus stocks and an anticipated bumper harvest to plug a gap in global wheat supplies due to the Ukraine war. India is looking to export wheat to countries such as Egypt, Turkey, Philippines, a few African nations and even Europe, as food prices soar.
The Indian government has set a target of exporting 10 million tonnes of wheat in 2022-23, of which one million tonnes will be exported to Egypt.
But the heatwave has ensured that the bumper crop and those targets would fall short.
Domestic wheat prices also increase
Domestic wheat prices are up by 5 percent to 7 percent on reports of lower yields of the crop being harvested across the country, which has also driven up the export prices.
A report by Hindustan Times stated that world food prices jumped significantly in March 2022 — up 12.6 percent from February — to reach their “highest levels ever” due to the Ukraine war, according to a latest update by the Food and Agriculture Organization.
Ukraine and Russia account for around 25 percent of global wheat exports, now disrupted by war. And global wheat exports account for around 25 eprcent of total global wheat production.
“We could end up with the lowest output in 15 years and that could impact our export plans,” said Karnal-based Rajinder Singh, a retired agriculture scientist with the Haryana government, who now works on climate change at the All-India People’s Science Network.
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