Heat wave scorches India's wheat crop, snags export plans
India's vulnerability to extreme heat increased 15% from 1990 to 2019, according to a 2021 report by the medical journal The Lancet. It is among the top five countries where vulnerable people, like the old and the poor, have the highest exposure to heat. It and Brazil have the the highest heat-related mortality in the world, the report said.
Farm workers like Baldev Singh are among the most vulnerable. Singh, a farmer in Sangrur in northern India's Punjab state, watched his crop shrivel before his eyes as an usually cool spring quickly shifted to unrelenting heat. He lost about a fifth of his yield. Others lost more.
"I am afraid the worst is yet to come," Singh said.
Punjab is India's "grain bowl" and the government has encouraged cultivation of wheat and rice here since the 1960s. It is typically the biggest contributor to India's national reserves and the government had hoped to buy about a third of this year's stock from the region. But government assessments predict lower yields this year, and Devinder Sharma, an agriculture policy expert in northern Chandigarh city. said he expected to get 25% less.
The story is the same in other major wheat-producing states like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.