India’s wheat output looks likely to fall in 2022 after five consecutive years of record harvests, as a sharp, sudden rise in temperatures in mid-March cut crop yields in the world’s second-biggest producer of the grain.
The drop could curb Indian exports of the staple. Cashing in on a rally in global wheat prices after Russia invaded Ukraine, India exported a record 7.85 million tonnes in the fiscal year to March – up 275 per cent from the previous year.
Expecting another record crop, traders and government officials saw an opportunity to export 12 million tonnes in the current 2022-23 fiscal year.
In mid-February, nearly a month before the recent hot spell, the government said India was on course to harvest an all-time high 111.32 million tonnes of the grain, up from the previous year’s 109.59 million tonnes
The government is yet to formally revise its production estimates, but an official note, seen by Reuters, said the output could fall to 105 million tonnes this year.
“Loss of production of wheat, all India basis, more or less stands around 6 per cent, on account of shrivelling of wheat grains around 20 per cent due to terminal heat and heat waves,” the note said.
In 2022, India recorded its warmest March in 122 years with the maximum temperature across the country rising to 33.1 degrees Celsius, nearly 1.86 degrees above normal, according to data compiled by the state-run India Meteorological Department.
“We’ve some initial idea but it’s a little early to fully understand the extent of crop loss,” said a senior government official who keeps tabs on planting and harvests.
At this stage, no one has a clear idea about the crop size, said Rajesh Paharia Jain, a New Delhi-based trader. “It’s a dynamic situation, so we will have to wait for a while to see a clearer picture,” Mr Jain said.