India’s Agriculture Ministry has reported that production of rice, pulses, and coarse grains in the 2017 kharif season may be 2.8 percent below last year’s record crop. In addition, the Ministry expects domestic production of oilseeds to drop by 7.7 percent from 2016. These reductions are being driven by below-average monsoons from June through September; this monsoon season generally provides water for over half of India’s unirrigated crop land. A reduced summer crop may mean a reduction in India’s agricultural growth from the record seen in 2016-2017 (4.9 percent), unless compensated for by a higher rabi harvest and increased production in non-crop sectors.
However, the Agriculture Ministry has also stressed that despite the reductions in expected kharif crop harvests, domestic production of most crops remains higher than the five-year average. In addition, according to the latest GIEWS Country Brief for India, released in late August, production prospects for the 2017 main (kharif) crops (including rice, maize, millet, and sorghum) are still favorable. As of early August, according to the country brief, official estimates showed that 49.78 million hectares of land had been planted with the 2017 main season cereals; this is up 3 percent from the same period in 2016.
GIEWS also reports that retail rice prices have been stable in recent months in most major markets due to adequate domestic supplies. Wheat prices declined in most markets in recent months as a result of record domestic production and increased imports.
The GIEWS report indicates that India’s overall food security situation is adequate as a result of the Government’s subsidization of rice and disbursement of wheat and coarse grains. However, flooding has impacted at least 32.1 million people, mostly in the northeastern and northwestern states. This flooding has damaged roads and bridges and likely caused significant loss of livestock and food stores. As a result, availability of and access to food in affected areas is expected to be constrained in the coming months.
The latest FAO Crop Prospects and Food Security Report also provides some data regarding India’s production and trade prospects. FAO reports that India is expected to see an almost-3 percent increase in overall cereal production in 2017, reaching 253.2 million tonnes, despite weather shocks like flooding and insufficient rainfall in some areas. Larger wheat production due to increased plantings is expected to boost the country’s overall 2017 cereal harvest. Rice and wheat prices have remained relatively stable in India in recent months, according to the report, despite some seasonal tightness prior to the kharif harvest.