Indian maize production may rise 15-20 pc this season

(Press Trust of India) -- India's maize production is likely to go up by 15-20 per cent to 18 million tons this Kharif season as farmers are diversifying to this crop in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

"We expect maize production to increase at least 15-20 per cent this Kharif," President of Indian Maize Development Association S K Singh said.

India is estimated to have produced 18.54 million tons of maize in 2007-08, out of which 14.82 million tons came from Kharif season, which is the post-summer period when farmers in many parts of the country depend on monsoon rains.

Singh said farmers in Punjab, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh are shifting to maize cultivation from other coarse grains like jowar and bajra as it offers them more returns.

Apart from diversification, the production would also improve as more and more hybrid seeds are being released into the market, he said.

Though the average yield is two tons per hectare, the maize productivity in some parts is over three tons a hectare, he said, adding farmers in Karnataka and Haryana are fast adopting the hybrid seeds of maize.

Singh said, "We have requested Monsanto to develop and release drought-tolerant hybrids of maize here as it has already released such varieties in South Africa." Bihar has emerged as a major destination for growing maize where the yield has also been improving, he said, adding Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand also have the potential to grow the crop in their rain-fed areas.

Commenting on export, Singh said many countries have turned to India for maize as prices in US have touched 400 dollars per tonne (Rs 1,720 a quintal). Maize prices in India are ruling at over Rs 900 per quintal in mandis. Though US is the largest producer of maize, the prices there have increased because of diversification of the produce towards manufacturing ethanol, Singh said.