Heat wave scorches India’s wheat crop, snags export plans

Heat wave sweeps wheat crop in India and hinders export plans

New Delhi, April 29 (BNA): An unusually early heat wave in India has slashed wheat production, raising questions about how the country is balancing its domestic needs with ambitions to boost exports and make up for the shortfall created by Russia. The war in Ukraine, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

Giant landfills have caught fire in the Indian capital, New Delhi, in recent weeks. Schools in the eastern Indian state of Odisha have been closed for a week, and in neighboring West Bengal, schools are stockpiling oral rehydration salts for children. On Tuesday, Rajgarh, a city of more than 1.5 million people in central India, was the hottest in the country, with daytime temperatures peaking at 46.5°C (114.08°F). Temperatures crossed the 45°C (113°F) mark in nine other cities.

But it was the heat in March – India’s hottest since records were first kept in 1901 – that hampered crops. Wheat is very sensitive to heat, especially during the final stage when its kernels are ripe and ripe. Indian farmers adjust their planting time to coincide with the cooler spring season in India.

Climate change has made India’s heat wave even hotter, said Frederic Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College London. She said that before human activities increased global temperatures, heat waves like this year would have hit India once in about half a century.

“But now it’s a much more common occurrence – we can expect these high temperatures on average about once every four years,” she said.

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India’s exposure to extreme heat increased 15% from 1990 to 2019, according to a 2021 report from the medical journal The Lancet. It is among the top five countries where people at risk, such as the elderly and the poor, are most exposed to heat. The report stated that Brazil and Brazil have the highest heat-related deaths in the world.

Farm workers like Baldev Singh are among the most vulnerable. Singh, a farmer in Sangurur in the northern Indian state of Punjab, watched his crop wither before his eyes as the normally cold spring turned into sweltering heat. He lost about a fifth of his revenue. Others lost more.

“I’m afraid the worst is yet to come,” Singh said.

Punjab is India’s “grain bowl” and the government has encouraged wheat and rice cultivation here since the 1960s. It is usually the largest contributor to India’s national reserves, and the government had hoped to buy about a third of the shares this year from the region. But government estimates expect lower returns this year, says Devinder Sharma, an agricultural policy expert in the northern city of Chandigarh. He said he expects to get 25% less.

The story is the same in other major wheat producing states like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.

Overall, India bought more than 43 million metric tons (47.3 million US tons) of wheat in 2021. Sharma estimates it will be reduced by 20% to nearly 50%.

Although it is the second largest producer of wheat in the world, India exports only a small portion of its crop. She was looking to take advantage of the global disruption to wheat supplies from the Russian war in Ukraine and to find new markets for wheat in Europe, Africa and Asia.

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This seems uncertain given the difficult balance that the government has to maintain between supply and demand. It needs about 25 million tons (27.5 million US tons) of wheat for a broad food welfare program that typically feeds more than 80 million people.

Before the pandemic, India had a huge stockpile that far exceeded its domestic needs – a buffer against the threat of famine.

Those reserves have been put under pressure by distributing free grain during the pandemic to around 800 million people – vulnerable groups such as migrant workers, Sharma said. The program has been extended until September but it is unclear whether it will continue after that.

We are no longer with that kind of surplus. . . “With exports now recovering, there will be a lot of pressure on the availability of wheat locally,” Sharma said.

India’s Federal Ministries of Agriculture and Trade did not respond to questions sent to them via email.

Outside India, other countries are also struggling with poor harvests hampering their ability to help offset potential shortfalls in supplies from Russia and Ukraine, usually the world’s largest and fifth largest wheat exporters.

China’s Agriculture Minister Tang Renjian said last month that the winter wheat harvest was likely to be poor, due to floods and delays in planting.


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