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New Delhi, Jan 14 (PTI) Amid a surplus wheat stock, reduction of wheat sowing across the country marginally to 336.48 lakh hectare so far in the 2021-22 rabi season is a good sign as farmers have shifted to oilseeds, Agriculture Commissioner S K Malhotra said on Friday.

An increase in oilseed acerage will help the country, which is dependent on edible oil imports.

Sowing of rabi (winter) crops is nearing completion and some areas may come under wheat where sugarcane was harvested late, Malhotra told PTI.

Planting of rabi crops like wheat begins in October and harvesting from April onwards. Wheat was sown in 340.74 lakh hectare in the year-ago period.

“We have enough wheat stock in our godown. It is a good sign that the wheat area is getting reduced. The area under wheat has shifted to oilseeds, which is very much required,” Malhotra said.

As a result, area sown under oilseeds has increased by 17.93 lakh hectare to 100.27 lakh hectare as on January 14 of the 2021-22 rabi season from over the year-ago period, he said.

“The increase in oilseeds area of about 17.93 lakh hectare has come from area that traditionally was sown to wheat,” he said.

Since rapeseed-mustard is the main rabi oilseeds crop and is grown along with wheat, much of the wheat area has shifted to rapeseed-mustard seed crop this time, he added.

Area sown under rapeseed-mustard seed crop has increased to 90.45 lakh hectare so far in the 2021-22 rabi season from 72.93 lakh hectare in the year-ago period, as per the latest data released by the agriculture ministry.

In some parts where sugarcane harvesting was done late, sowing would begin from mid-January which is not a recommended practice though, he said, adding that this area will also get added to the final sowing data.

Sowing of rabi crops will be completed by the end of January, he added.

Besides oilseeds, area sown under winter pulses has increased marginally to 160.20 lakh hectare so far this rabi season from 160.13 lakh hectare in the year-ago period.

Among pulses, area under gram — the main rabi pulse crop — has increased to 111.61 lakh hectare from 107.78 lakh hectare in the year-ago period.

Coarse-cum-nutri cereals area reduced slightly by 1.09 lakh hectare to 47.82 lakh hectare, while that of rice by 4.50 lakh hectare to 19.82 lakh hectare in the period.

As on January 12, state-run Food Corporation of India (FCI) was holding a wheat stock of 330.12 lakh tonne. PTI LUX ANU ANU