Record India wheat crop this season will pave way for easing of export curbs

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India is set to harvest a record wheat crop this season as favorable weather and heat-resistant seeds are expected to boost yields, potentially setting the stage for the country to lift restrictions on exports.

Output may climb almost 5 percent from a year earlier to 112 million tons in the year to June, said Gyanendra Singh, head of the Indian Institute of Wheat and Barley Research. Wheat, planted in October, accounts for about 65 percent of India’s winter-sown food grains. The previous all-time high was 109.6 million in 2020-21.

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A bumper harvest may allow the government to lift export restrictions and help cool domestic prices that have soared after weak production last season. India halted wheat exports in May, a shock move that fueled fears of food shortages and inflation amid the war in Ukraine. The decision was taken after a record-breaking heat wave parched the crop and slashed India’s output last year.

The production outlook is brighter this season as planting area has expanded, many farmers have sown new varieties that can withstand higher temperatures and the weather has been favorable so far, Singh of the state-run institute said in a phone interview.

Wheat has been sown on 82 million acres of land across India this season, an increase of 0.7 percent from a year earlier, according to the farm ministry.

Farmer Anil Kalyan, who has planted grain on his 40 acres of farmland in the northern state of Haryana, said temperatures have been conducive. “If the weather stays favorable in February and March, yields at my wheat fields may jump to 2.2 tons to 2.3 tons per acre from about 1.9 tons last year,” he said.

Higher production may help to ease local prices. The average retail cost of wheat is roughly 14 percent higher than a year earlier, while flour prices have jumped almost 18 percent, according to data from the food ministry. In contrast, global wheat prices are down about 3 percent from a year ago despite disruptions from the war.

Read more: India bans wheat exports as heatwave curbs output, prices soar

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