India’s wheat crop may be smaller than the record forecast by the government after hailstorm this month damaged planted areas.
About 12.1 million hectares (29.9 million acres) of the 30.6 million hectares of wheat planted was damaged from the hail and rain on March 1 to March 18, an India agriculture ministry official told reporters in New Delhi on Tuesday, asking not to be identified, citing government policy. The country received 49.2 milimeters (1.9 inches) of rain in the period, almost three times the average, the official said.
Wheat prices in Chicago have dropped 11 percent this year on prospects for the biggest-ever global crop. Siraj Hussain, India’s agriculture secretary, said March 10 the 2014-15 wheat crop may exceed last year’s record 95.9 million metric tons.
“As of now this is bullish,” Faiyaz Hudani, associate vice president at Kotak Commodity Services Ltd. in Mumbai, said by phone. “A clear picture will emerge only when harvesting picks up.”
Damage to crops from corn to lentils, mustard and fruits would stand to boost food prices, fueling domestic inflation. Consumer prices rose 5.37 percent last month from a year earlier, higher than January’s revised 5.19 percent pace and the 5.21 percent median estimate in a Bloomberg survey.
“My crop has been flattened by untimely rain and heavy wind,” said Amit Tyagi, a third-generation wheat farmer in Uttar Pradesh, the nation’s biggest grower of wheat. “I will get to know about the extent of damage next month at the time of harvest. I have no insurance for the crop and there is no news of any relief from the government yet.”
India’s state reserves of wheat may be 17.06 million tons on April 1, government data show. The South Asian nation’s consumption of the grain is estimated at 81.85 million tons in 2014-15, it said.
Out of total area of 61.8 million hectares sown to winter- sown crops such as wheat, mustard and lentils, 18.13 million hectares have been damaged, including 2.57 million hectares of mustard area, the official said. The winter-sown crops are usually harvested starting next month.