Indias durum production a poor cousin in wheat basket

Mumbai, Oct 30 | Updated: Oct 31 2005, 06:13am hrs
Durum wheat, classified as a separate commodity, has yet to find its rightful place in India. Its production in the country varies between 1-5% of total wheat output. However, in reality it is more often on the lower end of this range.

The government does not offer a separate estimate of durum through any of its crop forecasting or monitoring programmes.

It is possible that as contract farming increases in the Indian agricultural sector, durum contract farming will become more commonplace. Consequently, production may increase in the future and the crop marketed separately.

It is worth mentioning that durum wheat sells at a premium to other varieties and accounts for roughly 5% of global wheat production. Durum is the hardest of all wheat varieties. Its high protein content and gluten strength make durum good for pasta and bread. Semolina made from durum is used for premium pastas and breads. There is also a red durum, used mostly for livestock feed. Most durum wheat is grown in Mediterranean countries, the former Soviet Union, North America, and Argentina.

In India, durum production for 2005-06 is estimated at 1.2 million tonne, unchanged from the previous season. Similar to last season, the 2005-06 durum wheat season in central and northern India began with excellent soil moisture availability in November 2004, and then received very favourable rains during January 2005 as the crop entered the flowering stage. The durum crop was harvested during April.

Durum wheat comprises a small portion of the total wheat grown in India. It is grown mainly in the central zone which includes the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, parts of Punjab, south Rajasthan, and Maharashtra. Durum is grown under rainfed conditions, with the exception of durum grown in Gujarat, which is irrigated.

Durum production during 2004-05 was about 1.2 million tonne, up 50% over the previous season of 2003-04. The previous season was exceptionally dry, with the central Indian wheat region being one of the driest in the recent years.

The increase in 2004-05 durum production was a result of improved growing conditions.

Indias 2005-06 (April-March) total wheat production is estimated at 74 million tonne. The Centre has also unofficially revised its production forecast from 73-74 million tonne due to favourable growing conditions during February and March. Some analysts are even expecting production to reach 75 million tonne.

Meanwhile, world durum output in 2005-06 is estimated at approximately 27 million tons, up 1 million tonne from Julys estimate, but down sharply from last years record of 33 million tonne. Major exporters, Canada, European Union (EU), and the US combined, account for approximately 60% of total durum production.

Their total output has decreased by nearly 20% this year, mostly due to smaller crops in the European Union. On September 30, the National Agricultural Statistics Service revised the US durum production estimate upward to 2.7 million tonne from their July estimate based on increased area. Yields are down in all states except North Dakota.

Continued drought reduced output in EU and Morocco. The EU accounted for 28% of total world production this year compared to 36% last year. EU production is estimated to decrease by 36% from 2004/2005 due to prolonged dryness in Spain, Portugal, and Italy, and a reduction in seeded area. At the same time, Canadas durum production, which accounts for 20% of global output, is higher than the previous year.