If there is no significant improvement in acreage or reporting from various far-flung districts, area under wheat could remain below the targeted 28.5 million hectare as planting in most parts of the country usually comes to an end by January.
Officials are confident that even though, the brisk pace of sowing seen during October has come down, but it won't have a significant impact on overall production if weather remains favourable during the crop growing stage as yields are expected to improve this year.
According to official data, from December 19 to December 26, area under wheat expanded from 23 million hectare to 25 million hectare, a rise of almost 2 million hectare. From December 26 to January 2, area under wheat grew to around 26.2 million hectare, a rise of 1.2 million hectare. Subsequently, in the last reported period of January 2 to January 9, area under wheat went up from 26.2 million hectare to 26.9 million hectare across the country, a rise of just around 0.7 million hectare.
"The pace of sowing has slowed down, but it won't have a significant impact on overall output if weather remains favourable during the crop growing stage as yields are expected to be better than last year," a senior official said, adding that, "If weather is good wheat production in 2009 should at least match last year's level of 78 million tonne." Earlier, encouraged by the good start to sowing and favourable returns last year, government officials were expecting that overall acreage should rise by at least 3-4% to around 29.3 million hectare, up from last year's actual acreage of 28.19 million hectare. The government had targeted to plant wheat in around 28.5 million hectare. It plans to produce around 78.5 million tonne of wheat in 2009, around 1,00,000 tonne more than last year.
Wheat accounts for over 37% of the food grains production in the country, with rice accounting for the remaining. The crop is sown in October and harvested in March and April. Last year because of mammoth increase in production, government agencies had managed to procure a record 23 million tonne of wheat from farmers. Buoyed by the surge in procurement, the government had embarked on an ambitious programme to distribute around 4 million tonne to 6 million tonne of wheat to consumers under an open market sale scheme (OMSS).
It has also decided to create a strategic reserve out of the procured wheat to meet any exigencies and also set aside around 2 million tonne from its stocks for export through diplomatic channels.