Floods to cap rice output at 2007 level

Written by Reuters | New Delhi, August 28: | Updated: Aug 29 2008, 00:48am hrs
Flooding in key regions will cap India's summer-sown rice output at around last year's level despite a greater area under the crop, while oilseed production is likely to be higher, a government official said on Thursday.

Farm output in India, the world's second-biggest grower of wheat and rice and the largest importer of vegetable oils after China, influences supplies and prices in the international market.

"Sowing is progressing well and we have seen higher rice acreage but production is expected at last year's level due to some floods in Punjab and Haryana states," Farm Commissioner N.B. Singh said.

Floods in Punjab have submerged 180,000 acres of farms, mostly paddy, while in the eastern state of Bihar about 60,000 acres of farms, mostly rice but also corn and lentils were under water, officials in the two states said.

Punjab and Haryana produce nearly half of India's rice and wheat but Singh said floods would lead to lower rice yields.

Production of summer-planted lentils would fall by 500,000 tonnes, a drop of 8 per cent from last season, Singh said.

The area under protein-rich lentils, widely consumed in India, fell to 9.56 million hectares (ha) between June 1 and Aug. 22 against 11.2 million ha a year ago, government data showed.

Indian farmers plant summer-sown varieties of rice, corn, oilseeds and lentils during the monsoon months of June and July and harvest the crops in October.

The government, stung by inflation at a 13-year high, has banned exports of non-basmati rice, vegetable oils, corn, wheat and allowed duty-free imports of grains and crude cooking oils.

India produced 82.81 million tonnes of rice in the summer-sown season of the last crop year, government data showed.

Summer-planted crop makes up the bulk of India's rice output which rose to a record 96.43 million tonnes in the year to June 2008, up from 93.35 million tonnes a year ago.

The summer-sown crop of roughly 82 million tonnes is larger than the winter-sown crop of about 13 million tonnes because farmers plant wheat, another key staple, during the cold season.

Farmers planted rice on 32.4 million hectares between June 1 and Aug. 22 against 30.3 million hectares a year ago, while the area under oilseed cultivation rose marginally to 16.8 million tonnes from 16.7 million tonnes.

Singh, responsible for raising farm output, said oilseed output would be higher this season because of good monsoon rains.

India produced 19.84 million tonnes of oilseeds in the last summer-sown season.