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Untimely rains threaten India winter crops just before harvesting

Untimely rains and hailstorms could damage India’s main winter-sown crops, such as wheat, canola and chickpeas, just before harvest begins for plants that have already experienced some heat stress, industry and weather bureau officials say.

India’s weather department has warned that key growing states in central, northern and western regions could see more rain and hail in the next 10 days. That could limit production and increase food inflation, which the government and the central bank are trying to contain.

A decline in wheat production could make it difficult for New Delhi to replenish supplies, while lower rapeseed production could force the world’s largest consumer of edible oils to import more palm oil, soybean oil and sunflower oil.

“Rain and hailstorms have been a concern since the harvest of the winter crops has just begun. The standing crops would be affected and it could reduce production,” said Harish Galipelli, director of ILA Commodities India Pvt Ltd.

Farmers usually start planting wheat, rapeseed and chickpeas in October and November and harvest them from the end of February.

Hail storms and gusts of more than 30 km/h (19 mph) could hit states such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Maharashtra in the coming days, India’s Meteorological Service (IMD) said.

A farmer harvests wheat on the outskirts of Jammu, Indian-administered Kashmir (File: Channi Anand/AP Photo)

Crops sown in winter are already under pressure due to above-normal temperatures and early maturing, says farmer Ramrai Bohara of Rajasthan, the largest rapeseed-producing state.

Maximum temperatures in some wheat-growing areas rose above 39 degrees Celsius (102 degrees Fahrenheit) earlier this month, nearly 7 degrees above normal, according to IMD data.

‘We don’t want rain and wind for two to three weeks. Crops would fall and harvesting will be difficult,” Bohara said.

Rainfall would not only reduce yields but could also reduce crop quality, said a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading house.

El Nino threat

Cereal and oilseed crops across Asia are expected to experience hot, dry weather, with meteorologists expecting the El Nino weather pattern to develop in the second half of the year, jeopardizing supplies and raising concerns about food inflation increases.

Vast tracts of farmland in Southeast Asia and Australia are expected to experience warmer temperatures, while some growing regions in the Americas are likely to see more harvest-friendly weather as there is a greater than 50 percent chance of the El Nino phenomenon occurring . said meteorologists.

The La Nina weather, characterized by unusually cold temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, has ended and El Nino, a warming of ocean surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific, is expected to form during the northern summer, according to U.S. and Japanese weather forecasters .

While La Nina brings cool and wet weather to parts of Asia, El Nino is typically associated with heat and dryness in the region. In the Americas, the weather during El Nino is usually favorable for the harvest, although adverse weather conditions are likely to continue.

India’s northern and central parts, already reporting a lack of moisture, are expecting less rain than usual in the second half of the year, meteorologists said. Prices.

“In central and northern parts of India, stretching as far as Pakistan, the problem is that the current conditions are opposite to those of Southeast Asia,” said Chris Hyde, a meteorologist with US-based Maxar.

“The region is suffering from drought, so even slightly less than normal rainfall is likely to pose a risk to crops.”