* Rice output seen lower due to weak rains in eastern
* Huge rice stocks at government warehouses give cushion
* Output of other summer-sown crops likely to go up
(Recasts, adds trade, analyst comments)
By Ratnajyoti Dutta
NEW DELHI, Sept 23 India's summer-sown grains
output could rise only a little due to patchy rains but overall
an above average monsoon will help boost output of other crops,
helping curb food price inflation.
Monsoon rains covered all of India almost a month ahead of
schedule, but were below average in rice growing areas of
eastern states Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha.
The output of summer-sown grains is expected to rise 0.9
percent to 129.32 million tonnes in the crop year that began in
July, government sources said.
A marginal increase was due to better production estimates
for pulses and oilseeds though there would a small fall in the
rice harvest, said the sources, who did not wish to be named as
Farm Minister Sharad Pawar is scheduled to release this year's
official farm output numbers on Tuesday.
Farmers in India plant rice, corn, cane, cotton, soybean in
the rainy months of June and July. Harvests start from October.
The output of summer-planted rice in the 2013/14 season is
seen marginally lower at 92.32 million tonnes against 92.76
million tonnes in the previous year.
"Rainfall was patchy in key rice growing eastern states like
West Bengal and Odisha at the start of the season. It affected
transplanting. Heavy rainfall in some areas in August also
dampened yields," said Nalini Rao, an analyst with India
Infoline, a brokerage.
Monsoon rains irrigate 55 percent of farmland in India, one
of the world's biggest producers and consumers of rice, sugar,
soybean, edible oils and cotton.
Analysts said a marginal fall in rice output is not a matter
for concern as the government is sitting on huge stocks of the
"A slight fall is rather good news for the government which
has been grappling with storage problems. In terms of
availability, India has more than ample stocks," said Tejinder
Narang, advisor of Emmsons India Ltd, a trading company.
On Sept. 1, India's rice stocks at government warehouses
were 21 million tonnes against a target of 9.8 million tonnes.
Bumper harvests since 2007 have led to massive stocks of
rice and wheat, forcing the government to store food in open
fields where stocks are exposed to rains and rodents.
Massive stocks have made it easier for the government to
implement a $20 billion plan to give ultra cheap rice and wheat
to 67 percent of India's 1.2 billion people.
Patches of heavy rains in the second half of the rainy
season prompted some fears of vegetable crop damage in south,
central and western India and stalled planting of onions,
pushing food inflation to a three year high level in August.
The government updates its forecast as it gathers
information about crop planting.
"It is the first estimate for the 2013/14 crop year and it
is a conservative estimate which should be revised upwards as
harvests progress," said another government official who did not
wish to be named as he is not authorised to talk to the media.
Any fall in rice output could be compensated in the winter
season which begins from October, Narang said.
Growers plant summer-sown rice from June, while the
winter-planted variety is transplanted from October.
(Additional reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; editing by Mayank
Bhardwaj and William Hardy)