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Wheat output feared to be lower than 75.5 million tonne target

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New Delhi, Feb 22 (UNI) Vagaries of weather particularly sharp increase in temperatures since first week of the current month is likely to affect the standing wheat crop and ultimately its production prompting the Agriculture Ministry to lower down its output estimates to 73.6 million tonnes (mt) for 2005-06 season , marginally higher than last crop 72 mt.

Announcing second advance estimates at end of two-day National Conference for Kharif Campaign 2006 Agriculture secretary Ms Radha Singh said total foodgrains production for 2005-06 was estimated at 209.32 mt with kharif crops assessment at 108.15 mt, up from last season at 103.32 and Rabi crops at 101.17 almost equal to the last one at 101.29.

The Ministry estimated wheat output at 75.5 million tonnes for the country last month.

Wheat harvest, beginning next month is crucial, as market supplies are tight and the quantity of imports will depend on this year's production .

The country's wheat production touched a record of 76.4 million tonnes in 1999-2000 but since then there has been a steady decline.

Against a target of 79.5 million tonnes, the country produced only 72 million tonnes in 2004-05, the lower output dwindled the stocks and necessitating imports of 500,000 tonnes of wheat with deliveries by April.

The area covered under the current Rabi wheat crop (winter season reported at 26.5 million hectares is marginally higher than last year's 26.3 million hectares.

Ms Singh said the frost in December, absence of rains in January-February and now, many areas will have an adverse effect on output of Rabi crops.

However, the total foodgrains output growth in the crop year to 2006 is currently expected to be around 2.3 per cent higher than last year as the optimism is primarily based on good monsoon rains in 2005 and a hike in production of kharif crops (summer-sown) .

Kharif crops are usally sown in June and July to be harvested in October. Rabi crops are sown in November and December and harvested from February onwards.

The Ministry peg the total rice output for the year at 87.9 mt, up from 85.3 mt in the previous season.

On the other hand, oilseeds output this year is likely to be 26.3 million tonnes, up from 26.1 million tonnes, mainly because of the good summer-sown crop.

Estimates of kharif oilseeds have been raised to 15.9 mt from earlier assessment of 14.5 mt September last year. The last year's production was 14.9 mt.

The soybean output is now revised upward to 7.9 million tonnes from 7.5 million tonnes last year. However, rapeseed crop output, to be harvested now is expected at 7.6 mt that could offset the gains in the summer oilseeds production. Rapeseed harvest in 2004-05 was 8.3 mt.

The Rabi oilseeds output is estimated at 10.3 mt, down from 11.1 million tonnes.

A marginal rise in total groundnut output is expected it can go up to 7.2 million tonnes from 7.0 million tonnes.

However, the production of summer-sown groundnut is estimated to have increased to 5.8 mt from 5.3 mt .

With recent floods in south states and delayed sowing in Gujarat, winter-sown groundnut output is expected at 1.4 mt against 1.7 m t last year.

UNI JSS OM RK1948

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