INDIA- A Global Agricultural Information Network report from the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) forecasts MY 2023/2024 wheat production at 108 million metric tons (MMT) from 31.9 million hectares. 

This production is up from the 100MMT estimated in MY 2022/2023, based on 30.5 million hectares. 

This impressive estimated production is attributed to favorable weather conditions and sufficient soil moisture from planting through the vegetative/reproductive stages. 

Conversely, the MY 2022/2023 crop was terminally heat-stressed. Nevertheless, advantageous weather sustained record plantings in November 2022 and good crop development during the growing season despite higher temperatures shooting up starting the second week of February 2023. 

The USDA report also provides that the current crop is benefitting from low night temperatures, and farmers are mitigating daytime heat stress using light irrigation. 

According to the report, the crop should continue progressing well. However, changes in the current conditions could affect the 108MMT production estimates. 

The report further provides that unusually strong wheat prices in MY 2022/2023 persuaded farmers to plant wheat in the rabi (winter-planted) season, explaining the 4.6% increase in the estimated planted area in MY 2023/2024.

Moreover, the government has raised its minimum support prices (MSP) by 5.5 percent to Indian rupees (INR) 21,250 (US$260) per metric ton (MT), which should encourage higher plantings. 

However, despite India’s wheat production trending upwards in the past decade, the production confronts an increase in the frequency, intensity, and duration of extreme climate events. 

For example, over the last decade, delayed withdrawal of the monsoons, the early onset of summer, and untimely heavy rains and hailstorms during the crop’s reproductive stages affect the wheat crop’s yields.

India is a major wheat exporter globally, especially to neighboring and developing countries. However, despite India’s production expected to rise in MY 2023/24, exports are expected to reduce as the government protects local supplies by keeping the existing export ban. 

Rice production estimates slightly lower in MY 2023/24

Meanwhile, the USDA report forecasts India’s MY 2023/2024 rice production at 127 MMT, from a planted area of 46.5 million hectares. This is slightly lower than the 128 MMT estimates for MY 2022/23. 

Despite the erratic 2022 monsoon, Indian farmers realized good returns from rice over other crops. Additionally, farmers benefitted from higher government MSP procurement for paddy rice and strong export demand. 

However, the possible reappearance of El Niño, bringing with it warmer weather in the latter part of 2023, raises concerns that planting prospects for the next rabi season could be affected, as well as the summer crop. 

Therefore, plantings could be slightly lower than last year’s record plantings level, especially because 40% of India’s rice is reliant on rainfall. 

The USDA forecasts India’s MY 2023/2024 consumption at 111 MMT, driven by the government’s need to ensure sufficient rice in the domestic market to fight off food inflation concerns. 

On the other hand, the coarse grain production is estimated at 52.5 MMT, slightly higher than the estimated MY 2022/2023 production of 52 MMT, thanks to firm prices for corn, millet, and sorghum in the MY 2022/2023 season. 

The MY 2023/2024 forecast for coarse grain production includes 33.5 MMT of corn, 12.5 MMT of millet, 4.4 MMT of sorghum, and 2.1 MMT of barley.

The MY 2023/24 coarse grain consumption is estimated at 50.1 MMT due to steady animal feed demand and higher millet, sorghum, and barley consumption.

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