NEW DELHI, INDIA — New estimates are calling for record production of rice, wheat and corn in the 2019-20 crop year and overall grain production of 295.7 million tonnes, according to a report from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture.

The estimate from the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare is higher than the February estimate of 291.9 million tonnes and is 10 million tonnes higher than last year’s record harvest. Sources attribute the increase to favorable 2019 monsoon rainfall and weather conditions during most of the crop year.

Estimates call for:

  • Rice production of 117.94 million tonnes, up from 116.48 million tonnes, with a 2% higher yield.
  • Wheat production of 107.1 million tonnes, up from 103.6 million tonnes on higher planting and higher yields.
  • Corn production of 28.98 million tonnes, up from 27.7 million tonnes on higher planting and record yields of 3.12 tonnes per hectare.

The coronavirus pandemic delayed wheat harvest for two weeks in March and the government has staggered market arrivals, the USDA said. Farmers are temporarily storing their grains in makeshift on-farm storage facilities. Still, market arrivals are likely to be finished by the end of June.

Due to higher stocks and record government procurement, government held wheat stocks are expected to grow to 53 million to 55 million tonnes, compared to 41 million tonnes last year, the USDA said. Wheat will have to be stored on wooden platforms with plastic covers.

“These stocks will be highly susceptible to damage from rain and adverse weather, pests, vermin and pilferage, especially after the onset of the 2020 monsoon beginning in July,” the USDA said.

Government procurement of rice has also reached a new record of 46.2 million tonnes.

Wholesale prices have held steady with the exception of April when they spiked due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

Domestic prices fell back to pre-lockdown levels in May and may ease further with the arrival of the record rabi and summer rice in next few months, the USDA said.

Corn consumption estimates have been revised lower to 28 million tonnes based on weak demand for poultry feed. The poultry industry has been hit by rumors that it could transmit COVID-19, the USDA said.

“The ongoing national lockdown since March causing severe supply chain disruptions further aggravated the poultry industry situation,” the agency said. “The prolonged crisis has caused major losses to the poultry industry, leading to most producers cutting their production capacities and feed use, which includes corn. Market sources report that it may take another six months for the poultry industry to recover from losses incurred since the beginning of the year.”

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