After a searing February, when the monthly average maximum temperature was at the highest since 1901, brace up for a spike in temperatures from March to May.
On Tuesday, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) in its seasonal outlook for the March-May period predicted above normal maximum and minimum temperatures over most of east, northeast, central, and northwest India.
However, both the maximum and minimum temperature will remain normal to below normal in the period only in the southern peninsular region, the met department said. In February, while the monthly maximum temperature was the highest since 1901, the monthly averaged minimum temperature was the fifth highest for February since 1901.
The met department said the average minimum temperature was the second highest in February 2023 for northwest India, and third highest for east and northeast India. “Whether this February heat was due to climate change or otherwise needs to be analysed,” said SC Bhan, head of services in agriculture meteorology and hydrology at IMD.
“But, as per our information, the agriculture ministry is taking all necessary precautions,” Bhan added.
Meanwhile, in a related development, the Union health ministry issued an advisory today for the expected heatwave.
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According to the advisory, individuals should stay hydrated throughout the day and take oral rehydration solutions (ORS), if needed. Individuals should keep their water intake high by eating seasonal fruits with high water content and by drinking homemade drinks like lemonade, lassi etc.
People have also been advised to wear light, loose, cotton clothing to remain cool and to cover their heads from direct sunlight and heat.
Experts said a sharp spike in temperatures could affect the yields of the standing wheat crop, mainly in areas where sowing has been late, that is in Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh, where it has reached the grain filling stage. Dry winds and very high temperatures are considered to be bad for the wheat crop at its grain filling stage.
The only saving grace for north and central India in March, according to the IMD, is the low probability of severe heat waves, which will emerge in April.
The IMD said temperatures will be above normal over most of India in the next three months due to near absence of rainfall. “The spike in temperatures will definitely push up inflation,” said Madan Sabnavis, chief economist at Bank of Baroda.
“So long as the arithmetic of wheat production, procurement and domestic demand are not in alignment and the market continues to believe that the ability of the government to intervene in the market is limited due to the lower wheat stock, wheat prices are expected to remain elevated,” India Ratings said in a recent research note.
Rahul Chauhan, commodity analyst at iGrain, meanwhile, said the wheat crop was already under stress in several areas due to severe heat wave in February, which was why many state governments advised farmers to immediately adopt remedial measures.
“Standing crops in Punjab, UP, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and even in Bihar could come under severe stress if the heat rises like this,” Chauhan said.
The Centre in its latest estimate has predicted that the wheat output could be a record 112.18 million tonnes, up 4.12 per cent from last year, on the back of a sharp increase in acreage. It pegged production of chana at 13.63 million tonnes this year, which is 0.66 per cent more than the same period last year, while production of mustard, which is the main oilseeds grown during the rabi season, is projected at a record 12.81 million tonnes, which is 7.11 per cent more than last year.