New Delhi: India's wheat output in the current crop year ending June is likely to top the current estimate of record 88.31 mln tn, despite spread of yellow rust disease in parts of northern India, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said today.
   
"There should not be any problem in wheat production. This year, we will achieve the highest output in 60 years and there will be an improvement in our estimate of 88.31 mln tn," Pawar told reporters on the sidelines of an agriculture meet.
   
The farm ministry had earlier this month pegged India's wheat output at 88.31 mln tn, up from last season's 86.87 mln as the yield is seen better amid favourable weather conditions.
   
There were concerns that yellow rust, a fungal disease that can hit yields by about 20-40%, reported in parts of Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir may pull down output.
   
Pawar laid the concerns to rest, saying there is no threat to the crop from yellow rust.
   
High grain output over the last few years has helped the government build large reserves.
   
At the start of the calendar year, the government had 55.4 mln tn food grain in the central pool, as against the 20.0 mln buffer norm for Jan 1.
   
"Stock position of food grain is sufficient and we will be able to take care of (requirements under the) food security bill," Pawar said.
   
According to government estimates, the food grain requirement is seen increasing to about 61 mln tn after the food security plan is implemented.
   
The food security plan aims to ensure legal entitlements to highly subsidised food grain to nearly two-thirds of the country's 1.21 bln population.
   
Pawar said the government had adequate grain reserves, but will have to take measures to ensure food grain production does not slip even for a single year.
   
Rooting for sugar exports, the minister said, production is so high this season that farmers would not get good prices for cane unless further exports are allowed.
   
The empowered Group of Ministers on food had this month allowed export of another 1 mln tn sugar for the season.
   
Sugar prices have been depressed, as output this season is seen increasing to 26 mln tn as against last season's 24.3 mln tn.

(Agencies)