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Winter crops in demand: Why India's wheat, pulses output will spike in 2018

Higher production could allow India to avoid buying overseas wheat for the first time in three years

Reuters  |  Mumbai 

India's wheat, pulses output seen rising, to curb imports

India's production of wheat and is expected to jump in 2018 as a hike in the government's assured purchase and ample rainfall have prompted farmers to plant more of the winter crops, industry officials told Reuters.

Higher production will help the south Asian country reduce imports of in the 2018/19 fiscal year starting April 1 and and could allow it to avoid buying overseas wheat for the first time in three years.

"Given the better realisation there should be at least a 5 per cent rise in wheat sowing," said Harish Galipelli, head of commodities and currencies at Inditrade Derivatives & Commodities.

"Wheat are stable. Government has raised minimum support price and import duty. This will certainly encourage farmers to expand area."

The world's second biggest wheat producer earlier this month doubled the import tax on wheat to 20 per cent.

In October, India raised the price at which the federal government will buy new-season wheat from local farmers by 6.8 per cent to Rs 1,735 ($26.93) per 100 kgs (220 lbs).

An expected increase in wheat production to a new high and rising stockpiles meant India would not need to import wheat in 2018/19, an official with state-run said.

Wheat stocks with government agencies stood at 23.9 million tonnes as on Nov. 1, up 27 per cent from a year ago following record output in 2017, added the official, who declined to be named.

India has imported wheat for the past two years after local production fell due to successive droughts in 2015 and 2016.

The country imported 5.75 million tonnes of wheat in 2016/17, the most in a decade. India imports wheat mainly from Ukraine, Australia, Bulgaria and Russia.

Ample rainfall in October and higher-than-normal water level in reservoirs will ensure better yields in the current season, said Inditrade's Galipelli.

India's wheat output in 2017 rose 6.7 per cent from a year earlier to a record high 98.38 million tonnes.

Farmers are likely to expand the area given over to chickpeas by nearly 20 per cent, said Pravin Dongre, chairman of the India and Grains Association.

"Chickpeas gave better returns to farmers than oilseeds. Initial reports are indicating a significant jump in sowing," Dongre said.

Chickpea, also known as chana, is the main winter-sown pulse crop in India. A rise in chickpea production will help the country reduce imports in 2018/19, he said.

India, the world's biggest importer of pulses, shipped in 6.6 million tonnes of mostly peas in fiscal 2016/17.

The government's decision to raise the chickpea support price by 10 per cent and a recent move to impose a 50 per cent import duty on peas will lure farmers to plant chickpea, said Nitin Kalantri, a miller based at Latur in

In 2016/17, India's pea imports jumped 41 per cent from a year earlier to a record 3.17 million tonnes.

India imports peas mainly from Canada, Russia, United States and France.

First Published: Wed, November 29 2017. 12:24 IST
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