After a bumper wheat harvest last year,Punjab and Haryana have scaled down their forecasts for the current season with most districts reporting lower yields.
The countrys total procurement in 2012-13 was a record 381 lakh tonnes,as was Punjabs 128 lakh tonnes,even though it represented a drop in percentage terms,from 39 to 36. This was because a number of other states contributed more than usual to the central pool. Haryana had an all-time high of 86.5 lakh tonnes,a jump of 25 per cent over the previous years procurement. With its production doubling in two years,Madhya Pradeshs procurement crossed 84 lakh tonnes while Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan too procured higher wheat than previous years,32.25 lakh tonnes and 15.93 lakh tonnes respectively.
Punjabs procurement was out of a total production of 160 lakh tonnes,an 18 per cent jump from the previous years output. For the current year,Punjab initially termed the long winter spell favourable for wheat and forecast a procurement of 140 lakh tonnes.
Midway into the procurement season,the state has toned it down as farmers and crop-cutting experiments have reported fall in yield. According to the agriculture department,the yield has fallen by nearly 15 per cent three to four quintals an acre owing to intermittent but heavy rains,strong winds and high day temperatures in February and March. Punjab now estimates wheat procurement will be between 115 lakh and 120 lakh tonnes.
Haryana,meanwhile,has scaled the procurement target down from 78 lakh tonnes to 65 lakh. The state,which produced a record 130 lakh tonnes last year,does not expect to repeat that,though it does not rule out reaching the conservative target it set for itself the average of the last three years.
Our production target for this year is 124 lakh tonnes. But as in other wheat-producing states,unfavourable weather conditions such as high-velocity winds and hailstorms have lowered the yield in Haryana, said B S Duggal,MD,Haryana Seeds Corporation,and a former additional director for agriculture. While the night temperatures were low,the day temperatures were high. Some areas also saw attack of yellow rust disease. The state may achieve its target,but production is not likely to reach last years figure.
Until the forecasts went down,wheat arrivals were higher than last years. Punjab crossed 97 lakh tonnes in April against 87 lakh tonnes during the same period last year. The lifting of procured stocks has failed to keep pace with this and nearly a fourth of the procured grain is lying unlifted in mandis. At one stage,daily arrivals peaked at 7 lakh tonnes,leading to a glut. Then the daily arrivals started trickling down to 2 to 3 lakh tonnes.
Compared to last year the wheat arrivals are higher. In April third week,daily arrivals had peaked a 7 lakh tonnes while the lifting capacity is 5 lakh tonnes. But daily arrivals have dried down and the glut will soon be cleared, Punjab Mandi Board GM (enforcement) S S Randhawa said.
While farmers are estimating their losses,the fall in yield has come as a reprieve for state procurement agencies and Food Corporation of India,which were fearing the storage crisis would get worse.
Last year,we had to resort to unscientific storage for nearly 30 lakh tonnes. This wheat was moved out on a priority basis to prevent damage. Owing to favourable weather conditions,the procurement target this year was 140 lakh tonnes. This would have the required storage of more wheat unscientifically. Now with forecast down to 115 lakh tonnes,this will help ease the storage crisis, FCI DGM (storage) S K Yadav said.
The Centre has also started the process of exporting wheat stocks of 2011-12 out of Punjab and Haryana to help ease their problem of plenty. We have started the process of empanelling exporters. The quantity to be exported will depend on the response from the parties, Punjab FCI DGM (quality control) A S Arunachalam said.
With the earlier target of 140 lakh tonnes,65 lakh tonnes would have been stored unscientifically. Even with the lower yield,around 45 lakh tonnes will still have to be stored unscientifically, said food and civil supplies secretary D S Grewal. Like last year,the Centre has assured evacuation of such stocks on a priority.