India’s Food Grain Output Said to Decline on Dry Weather

India, the second-biggest grower of wheat and rice, may estimate that the 2012-2013 food-grain harvest will drop 3.8 percent from a year earlier after a below-average monsoon, said two officials with direct knowledge.

Farmers may reap about 250 million metric tons in the year ending June 30, from a record 260 million tons previously, said the two government officials, who asked not to be identified before the forecast is released in the first week of February. The wheat crop should be 90 million tons to 93 million tons, they said. The harvest was a record 93.9 million tons in 2011-2012, according to the farm ministry.

Manoj Pandey, a spokesman for the ministry, declined to comment on the output figures.

Even a smaller food-grain harvest should be enough to meet domestic demand after two consecutive years of rising output and may not effect the nation’s free export policy, said Ramesh Chand, director of the New Delhi-based National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research.

“We may not be able to meet the achievements of last year in total crops output,” Chand said today by phone. Still, “India has considerable scope for increasing export of wheat” and rice because of high stockpiles, he said.

State reserves of rice and wheat were 66.7 million tons as of Jan. 1, compared with the government’s requirement of 25 million tons, according to the Food Corp. of India.

Exports Surge

Wheat exports have surged to about 6 million tons, including 1.47 million tons from state stockpiles, since a ban on sales was lifted in September 2011, according to data from the food ministry. India was the largest supplier of rice in 2012, shipping 10.3 million tons, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

Wheat output in India may reach a record for a seventh year as cold weather boosts yield prospects, Indu Sharma, director at the state-owned Directorate of Wheat Research, said Jan. 9. Farmers planted the grain on 29.5 million hectares (72.9 million acres) as of Jan. 18, compared with 29.6 million hectares a year earlier, according to the farm ministry. Winter-sown rice was planted on 879,000 hectares, down from 1.05 million hectares, it said.

About half of the country’s food grains are sown during the monsoon and harvested from October, according to the farm ministry. The grains include rice, corn and lentils. Harvesting of wheat, the biggest winter-sown crop, usually begins in March.

Food-grain consumption in the south Asian nation may increase to 237.4 million tons in the fiscal year ending March 31, compared with 233.4 million tons a year earlier, Chand said.

Wheat futures for delivery in March lost as much as 0.8 percent to $7.7275 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade today, the lowest price for a most-active contract since Jan. 15. Futures rebounded to trade at $7.825 recently.

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