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Wheat yield may drop in Lahore, Gujranwala divisions

Wheat yield may drop in Lahore, Gujranwala divisions

LAHORE: As harvesting starts, Punjab now expects to reap 19.55 million ton wheat against earlier estimates of over 20 million ton, as a combination of climate change – hailstorms, windstorms, persistent rains (over 300mm in March alone) in rice zones – and rust attack take toll on the crop.

The drop is despite having half a million additional acreage than last year; this season, it was sown on 17 million acre against last year’s 16.50 million acre.

Last year, the province had harvested 19.70 million ton and fears to go down by 150,000 ton (or roughly one per cent) this year despite higher acreage.

“The loss has mainly come from the rice belt; Gujranwala and Lahore divisions (Lahore areas bordering Gujranwala district),” explains an official of the Punjab Agriculture Department.

These areas have suffered extreme weather conditions during February and March, especially last month. It has been raining since February in these areas, but March alone brought over 300 millimeters rains, together with wind and hailstorms. These conditions seem to have driven half a million ton hole in the earlier projections. The Punjab, which, at one point in time, was expecting to cross a record 20 million ton figure, is now, as per crop reporting figures, revising its target to 19.55 million ton; even less than last year’s production of 19.70 million ton, he said.

Explaining area-wise position, another official of the department says: “Rahim Yar Khan and Rajanpur areas are yielding better than last year; Multan, Bhawalnagar and Sahiwal are almost at the same level as of last year but Gujranwala and Lahore divisions are expected to suffer a steep dip and take the provincial estimates down.”

He says the weather conditions have hit almost the entire wheat belt but the damage in other than Gujranwala and Lahore divisions is in patches. However, the same weather conditions – consistent rains since February – have also generally benefitted the crop; providing water and nitrogen and improving yield. So far, it has been a mixed baggage: damaging the crop in some areas and helping in others.

Apart from the crop reporting figures, the department still hopes to touch last year’s figures of 19.70 million ton.

“There are also reports of grain shriveling from the southern Punjab,” claims Majid Abdullah – a flour miller from Lahore. The overall size of the grain is also reported to be smaller than last year’s in the same area. The province has harvested six to seven per cent of the crop and earlier reports from these areas suggest drop in cop size; how much? It remains to be seen.

The millers and the food department also have some kind of paraphernalia in the field and they are receiving report of higher weather damage than the agriculture department suggests at this stage. However, the situation is still fluid for everyone and it is hard to predict the final figure, which should certainly be less than the last year’s. At least, the millers are basing their purchase on lesser yield than last year’s. However, the situation would be clear in the next two weeks when harvesting and thrashing gain some kind of momentum and crop start trickling in the market, he says.

Published in Dawn, April 19th, 2015

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