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India

India expected to harvest record wheat, rice crops this year

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India is likely to harvest a record 109.24 million tonnes of wheat this year, the farm ministry said, further boosting stocks at government granaries that are fast running out of storage space due to more than a decade of bumper production.

A worker carries boiled rice in a wheelbarrow to spread it for drying at a rice mill on the outskirts of Kolkata, India, January 31, 2019. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/Files

Wheat output in India, the world’s second biggest producer, is expected to go up by 1.3% in the crop year to June 2021, the Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Ministry said in its second crop forecast for 2020/21.

Rice output is estimated to rise by 1.2% to 120.32 million tonnes. India is the world’s biggest rice exporter and second biggest producer.

The Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Ministry forecast this year’s total grains output at a record 303.34 million tonnes against 297.5 million tonnes produced in the previous year.

Output of rapeseed, the main winter oilseed with the highest oil content, is expected at 10.4 million tonnes, higher than previous year’s production of 9.1 million tonnes.

Production of chickpeas, a variety of pulses, is likely to be 11.62 million tonnes against 11.08 million tonnes harvested in the previous year.

Any increase in rapeseed and chickpea production cuts imports of expensive vegetable oils and pulses - the commodities that are mostly in short supply in India, the world’s biggest importer of both cooking oils and protein-rich pulses.

Also, a string of bumper rice and wheat harvests - thanks to high-yielding seed varieties, increasing farm mechanisation and good weather conditions - have bumped up local supplies.

Brim-full granaries have hardly any extra space to accommodate new season harvests that will start trickling in from next month, potentially exposing food stocks to rains and rodents.

Despite bumper harvests, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is grappling with discontent in the countryside, with tens of thousands of farmers protesting about three new agricultural laws introduced in September.

Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj. Editing by Jane Merriman

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