By Mayank Bhardwaj and Rajendra Jadhav
NEW DELHI/MUMBAI (Reuters) – Indian farmers have planted wheat on 4.5 million hectares since Oct. 1, when the current sowing season began, up 9.7% from a year ago, the latest data from the farm ministry showed on Friday.
The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare will keep updating the provisional crop sowing figures as it gathers more information from state governments.
In India, wheat is mainly produced in the northern states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and the central state of Madhya Pradesh.
The planting figures are also subject to revision depending on weather conditions.
Late rains in October and November raised soil moisture levels and helped farmers bring in more area under wheat, the main winter crop, growers said.
India grows only one wheat crop in a year, with planting in October and November, and harvests from March.
India, the world’s second-biggest wheat producer, was forced to ban exports of the staple in May this year, after a sudden rise in temperatures in March cut crop yields.
Despite the ban, wheat prices have soared to a record high, prompting the government to weigh measures such as the release of state reserves into the open market while axing the 40% tax on imports to cool prices.
Sowing of rapeseed, the main winter-planted oilseed reached 5.5 million hectares, up from 4.8 million hectares a year ago, according to the farm ministry.
Higher rapeseed output will help India, the world’s biggest cooking oil importer, to cut expensive purchases of edible oils from Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil, Argentina, Russia and Ukraine.
In the fiscal year to March 31, 2022, New Delhi spent a record $18.99 billion to import vegetable oils, prompting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to voice concerns about India’s rising vegetable oil import bill.
As part of efforts to reduce India’s dependence on edible oil imports, New Delhi has granted environmental clearance for indigenously developed genetically modified mustard seeds, part of the rapeseed family.
(Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj and Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Andrea Ricci)
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