India is probably heading for the smallest wheat harvest in seven years after rains and hail ravaged farms, forcing bread and pizza makers to boost imports.
Production is set to drop as much as 17 per cent to 80 million metric tons from a record 95.9 million tons a year earlier, said Pravin Dongre, chairman of the India Pulses and Grains Association. That’s the lowest since 2008, official data show. The government estimates output at 90.78 million tons.
Unseasonal rains have ruined crops and lowered the quality of wheat in the world’s largest producer after China. That’s spurred flour mills to increase imports for blending with local grain as global prices trade near the lowest level since 2010. The harvest normally starts in April and ends by June.
“We’re shattered as almost all my wheat, potato and mustard crops were damaged by the untimely rains,” said Sateesh Kumar, a farmer from Uttar Pradesh state. He harvested 5.2 tons from 11 acres, down from 22 tons last year.
Crops from wheat to rapeseed and vegetables were damaged on about 19 million hectares (47 million acres) as rainfall more than double the 50-year average in February and March drenched fields, according to government data. The main wheat-producing regions had almost five times the average, data show. That’s discoloured the grain and raised moisture content.
“What we are hearing from our sources is that there is huge damage to the crops,” Dongre said. “In some areas, there is no grain at all.”
Imports may surge to 1 million tons from 45,000 tons a year earlier if purchases from Russia and the Black Sea region are allowed, said Faiyaz Hudani, associate vice president at Kotak Commodity Services Ltd. in Mumbai. Supplies from that area depend on the government easing phytosanitary requirements, according to Dongre.
Bloomberg News, edited by ESM