Area under wheat, food-grains increase this winter

India seems set of another bumper wheat crop in 2011 as the sown area has increased by 3.2% compared to the winter season a year ago. A total of 29.1 million hectares were sown with wheat for the current winter crop, according to statistics released by the agriculture ministry.

The procurement of wheat by the government has been increasing at a rapid rate during the last three years, raising concerns of wasteful expenditure on storage and loss due to rains and pest infestations at godowns. The government has doubled the price at which buys wheat from the farmers over the last five years, and currently spends around Rs 15 per kg including transportation and storage costs.

It bought 22.5 million tonnes of wheat in the first four months of the procurement season that began in April. The government has set an ambitious target of procuring 26.2 million tonnes by March 2011, higher than the all-time record of 25.4 million tonnes during 2009-10.

Area sown with pulses, which had seen run-away prices a year ago, too increased from 13.8 million hectares to 14.9 million hectares, a jump of nearly 8%.

However, net sown area for ‘coarse cereals’ such as Maize and Jowar declined during the winter this year, falling from 6.4 million hectares to around 6 million hectares this year. Rice, which is also grown in the winter in some parts of the country, was sown over just 1.95 million hectares this year compared to 2.2 million hectares.

In total, food grains were sown over a total of 51.9 million hectares during the winter season this year, compared to 50.6 million during the same time last year.