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India to harvest record rice, wheat crops

A veiled woman farmer harvests a wheat crop in a field on the outskirts of Ajmer in Rajasthan, April 4, 2015. REUTERS/Himanshu Sharma/Files

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India is expected to produce a record 106.21 million tonnes of wheat this year, the farm ministry said, as favourable weather conditions helped to improve crop yields, with output far exceeding demand and further boosting stocks at grain bins.

Wheat output in India, the world’s second-biggest producer, is expected to go up by 2.5% in the crop year to June 2020, the farm ministry said in its second crop forecast for 2019/20.

Rice output in the world’s biggest exporter and No. 2 producer is estimated to rise by 0.9% to 117.47 million tonnes.

The farm ministry forecast this year’s total grains output at a record 291.95 million tonnes against 285.21 million tonnes produced in the previous year.

Output of rapeseed, the main winter oilseed with the highest oil content, is expected at 9.11 million tonnes, higher than a target of 8.23 million tonnes but lower than previous year’s production of 9.26 million tonnes.

Production of chickpea, a popular variety of pulses, is likely to be 11.22 million tonnes against 9.94 million tonnes harvested in the previous year.

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

Also, repeated bumper harvests of rice and wheat - 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, exposing food stocks to rains and rodents, India’s leading farm economists and farm trade policy experts said.

Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav and Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by Edmund Blair and Jane Merriman