India could see a bumper wheat crop in 2017 after consecutive years of subdued harvest as farmers have increased the area under the winter crop by close to a million hectares, shows data released by the agriculture ministry.
Over 31.3 million hectares have been sown with wheat compared to the five-year average of 30.4 million hectares, driven by higher planting in states like Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Indian farmers harvested a record 95.8 million tonnes of wheat in 2014, followed by consecutive years of poor harvest due to adverse weather conditions—86.5 million tonnes in 2015 and 93.5 million tonnes in 2016, according to government estimates. For 2017, the government has set a target of 96.5 million tonnes of wheat production.
A bumper harvest—contingent on a favourable winter with lower temperatures and no unseasonal rain during the harvest season—will not only cool rising wheat prices but also support the rebound in agriculture growth rates.
Earlier this month, the government estimated that farm growth will revive to 4.1% in 2016-17 compared with the dismal 1.2% in 2015-16 and a contraction of 0.2% in 2014-15.
Other than wheat, the data on rabi or winter sowing shows that farmers have aggressively planted pulses while cutting down the area under coarse grains. Nearly 15.8 million hectares have been planted under various pulses, compared with the seasonal average of 14 million hectares.
The recent collapse in prices of horticulture crops due to a bumper harvest and the cash crunch in rural India following demonetisation of high-value currency notes may have turned farmers to field crops like wheat and pulses where price risks are lower due to government-announced support prices.
Overall, the data on rabi sowing shows that sowing has been completed in over 98% of seasonal area—62.8 million hectares has been planted under various crops compared with the seasonal area of 63.8 million hectares.