To further cool prices, the Centre has decided to offload an extra 2 million tonnes (mt) of wheat in open markets in the next few weeks. This will be in addition to the 3 mt already approved for sale on January 25.
The extra sale comes amid concern about the coming wheat crop as the India Meteorological Department (IMD) in its latest weather update said maximum temperatures were likely to be above normal by 3-5 degree Celsius in northwest, central, and West India over the next five days.
According to an official statement, the extra 2 mt will be for sale through e-auction to flour mills, private traders, bulk buyers, and manufacturers of wheat products.
The proposal to add wheat stocks in the open market was taken by a group of ministers, sources said.
Meanwhile, on the prevailing heat wave and its impact on the standing wheat and other rabi crops, the Mahalanobis National Crop Forecast Centre (MNCFC) said the crop had reached the maximum vegetative stage in Madhya Pradesh, parts of Punjab and Haryana.
In eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, wheat is yet to reach the maximum vegetative phase due to delay in sowing, it said in its latest report.
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The life cycle of a wheat plant is divided into three main phases -- the vegetative phase, in which leaves and tillers are developed; the reproductive phase; and the grain fill stage.
The wheat crop normally enters the grain fill stage in March and any unusual rise in temperatures damage yields, it said. On weather, a senior meteorologist at the IMD said temperatures in northwest India were likely to drop by two degrees Celsius over the next two days after a western disturbance affecting the western Himalayan region receded.
On Monday, most places in northwest, central, and west India logged their maximum temperatures in the range of 35 degrees Celsius to 39 degrees Celsius.
Delhi on Monday recorded one of its hottest February days with the maximum temperature at the Safdarjung observatory, the city’s primary weather station, soaring to 33.6 degrees Celsius. The city had recorded an all-time high of 34.1 degrees Celsius on February 26, 2006, and a maximum temperature of 33.9 degrees on February 17, 1993. Kuldeep Srivastava, head of the IMD’s Regional Forecasting Centre, said the lack of strong western disturbances was the primary reason for the early heat in Delhi and other parts of northwest India.
The IMD said farmers could go for light irrigation if the crop appeared to be under stress.
“To reduce the impact of higher temperatures, add mulch material in the space between two rows of vegetable crops to conserve soil moisture and maintain soil temperature,” it said.
A heat wave is declared if the maximum temperature of a station reaches 40 degrees Celsius in the plains, 37 degrees in coastal areas, and at least 30 degrees in hilly regions, and the departure from normal is at least 4.5 degrees.
In March last year, the warmest recorded in the country since 1901, heat caused a decline of 2.5 per cent in wheat yields. The country as a whole got just 8.9 mm rain, which was 71 per cent lower than its long-period average of 30.4 mm.