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Indian farmers worry about high temperatures impacting wheat yields and prices

As temperatures soar across India, the country's farmers are expressing concern about the impact it could have on the rabi crop, which is currently being harvested. According to a research note from CRISIL, if the high temperatures continue through March, the yields could be either on par or marginally lower than last year's low.

Picture: Kumaon Jagran

To cope with the heat wave, farmers in Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh have started spraying crop nutrients such as bio-stimulants and specialty fertilizers. While this may help to some extent, the driving factor behind the high temperatures is not in their control, leaving them vulnerable to the potential impact on their crops.

One of the crops that could be affected is wheat. In the past 20 days, wheat prices have been on a downward trend. However, if high temperatures hurt crop output, the price trend may reverse. The third e-auction of wheat by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) reached the market at a much lower selling price than the January price, causing cereal prices in the physical markets to fall 30 per cent from January highs.

Picture: Kumaon Jagran

In January, wheat prices had reached Rs 3,200/quintal on lower availability, and due to a fall in the government's buffer stock following lower procurement last year when production was hit by heatwaves, private traders picked up wheat at higher prices.

The CRISIL report noted that the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh is expected to have relatively good yields because of timely sowing after the harvest of kharif paddy. However, western Uttar Pradesh could see a marginal decline due to late sowing if high temperatures persist in March. The state accounts for approximately 30 per cent of India's wheat production.

In Punjab and Haryana, which together account for approximately 25 per cent of the country's wheat production, late-sown wheat is in the flowering stage, and the early-sown lot is in the milking stage. The high temperature could prove to be detrimental to grain in both of these stages.

Madhya Pradesh, which accounts for approximately 20 per cent of India's wheat production, also has its wheat crop in the milking stage. Meanwhile, Bihar, which accounts for approximately 5 per cent of the country's wheat production, saw early sowing, and the crop there is at the grain formation/maturation stage, meaning it would be relatively less impacted.

The report concluded that if the weather situation persisted for the next 20 days, there could be a turnaround in prices. The impact of high temperatures on crops underscores the need for farmers to adopt climate-smart agriculture practices that help mitigate the effects of climate change. These practices include crop diversification, conservation tillage, and efficient use of water resources. By adopting such measures, farmers can reduce the risks associated with extreme weather events and maintain a stable income from their crops.

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