Wheat production in the ongoing crop season is expected to be at an all-time high of 96.6 million tonnes (mt) on the back of good southwest monsoon, favourable weather and record acreage, the second advanced estimate for foodgrain production showed.
The estimate released on Wednesday also showed that overall foodgrain production, including kharif harvest, in 2016-17 was expected to be a record 271.98 mt, showing that demonetisation didn’t have a big impact on rabi crops.
If the production numbers turn out to be correct, agriculture and allied sector growth in 2016-17 could reach more than 5 per cent. The Central Statistics Office (CSO)’s had pegged growth at 4.1 per cent in the first advanced estimate of 2016-17. Agri growth in previous financial year was at 1.2 per cent.
"Although the record high growth in output of foodgrains and oilseeds bodes well for the trajectory of food prices, the seasonal rise in prices of vegetables and stickiness in prices of sugar, would result in retail food and beverages inflation rising over the next few months, from the series-low 1.3 per cent in January 2017. In addition to the estimate of crop production for the ongoing fiscal, the Central Bank would weigh the cues regarding the upcoming monsoon season while assessing the outlook for food inflation," Aditi Nayar, Principal Economist, ICRA Limited said.
The data also showed that production of mustard, the biggest oilseeds grown during the rabi season, was expected to be 7.91 mt, 1.11 mt more than last year.
Chana or gram production in 2016-17 was expected to be around 9.12 mt, 29 per cent more than last year. Overall, pulses production in 2016-17 was expected to be 22.14 mt, the highest India has produced.
This should help in reducing imports as consumption was estimated to be 23-24 mt. But this could signal bad news for farmers as prices have already dropped much below the minimum support price (MSP).
“Demonetisation was announced in November 8. By that time wheat sowing was already on. Thereafter climate was very favourable, which helped in raising the per-hectare yield, leading to a record wheat production this year,” P K Joshi, South-Asia Director of International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), told Business Standard.
Demonetisation didn’t have any impact on rabi sowing as more than 80 per cent of rural economy ran on credit. “To me, in the final analysis, India’s agriculture and allied sector growth in 2016-17 is expected to be around 5-6 per cent, much more than the advanced estimated by CSO,” Joshi added.
The data also showed that among other crops, rice production in 2016-17 was expected to be a record 108.86 mt, almost 4.26 per cent more than last year. Oilseeds production in 2016-17 was pegged at a record 33.60 mt, soyabean output at 14.13 mt, groundnut at 8.47 mt and castorseed at 1.74 mt.
Last year, oilseed output was 25.25 mt and the previous record was 32.75 mt in 2013-15.
Coarse cereal output was estimated to be a record 44.34 mt this year, against 38.52 mt last year. The previous record was 43.40 mt in 2013-14.
The foodgrain basket comprises wheat, rice, pulses and coarse cereals.
Among cash crops, cotton output was estimated at 32.51 million bales (of 170 kg each) this year, against 30 million bales last year.
However, sugarcane output was likely to be lower at 309.98 mt this year, against 348.44 mt last year. Jute and mesta output was estimated to be lower at 10.06 million bales (of 180 kg each) against 10.52 million bales last year.
The government releases total four estimates on foodgrain production before the final one at various stages of production and harvesting period. It also lowered its last year’s wheat production to 92.29 mt, against the previous estimate of 93.5 mt.