India’s harvest rain damage questioned

Good production outlook | Warm temperatures will offset wet conditions, says analyst

One of the world’s leading pulse processors thinks harvest rain could be damaging India’s rabi (winter) crop.

“From market reports we receive, as well as the media, conditions look, in our estimation, to be impaired in the current rabi season, as they were in the kharif season when the monsoon rains were deemed deficient,” said Murad Al-Katib, president of Alliance Grain Traders Inc.

He told investment analysts listening to a conference call announcing the company’s 2012 annual results that he recently received a firsthand look at harvest conditions in India.

“Conditions there were actually wet for this time of the year with significant rainfalls reported just prior to the harvest period, which may have the effect of decreasing already reduced pulse production,” said Al-Katib last week.

India’s agriculture department is forecasting 17.58 million tonnes of 2012-13 pulse production, which is below the government target of 18.24 million tonnes primarily because of a disappointing kharif (summer) harvest.

A rainfall map produced by India’s meteorological department shows that March rain in Madhya Pradesh has been in excess, which means 20 percent or more than normal. Madhya Pradesh, a state in northern India, grows 40 percent of India’s chickpea crop.

Drew Lerner, president of World Weather Inc., isn’t overly concerned about the harvest rain.

“It is a little wetter than it usually is at this time of the year. I don’t know how damaging it would be because the temperatures are very warm at this time of year,” he said.

Seven to eight millimetres of rain doesn’t stick around long with temperatures in the 30s C.

“It’s going to be evaporated away within a few hours of its occurrence,” he said.

Lerner said the rain has been random, light and non-repetitive.

“I just can’t get excited about it being a very significant event.”

If there is damage to the rabi crop, it hasn’t shown up in India’s pulse markets. Chickpea prices have been falling in India since late January based on good production prospects.

India’s farmers are forecast to harvest a record 8.57 million tonnes of the crop.

However, there is a brief mention in a commodities report issued by Angel Commodities that lends credence to Al-Katib’s comments on the deteriorating condition of the rabi crop.

“Erratic weather in (Madhya Pradesh) may lower the yield,” said the commodity broker in a March 28 publication.

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