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Wheat is the most important food grain in the world that ranks second in total production as a cereal crop, behind maize and ahead of rice. Wheat is the staple food of millions of people. It is also an important part of the daily diet of many millions more.
It is believed that wheat developed from a type of wild grass native to the arid lands of Asia Minor. Cultivation of wheat is thought to have originated in the Euphrates Valley as early as 10,000 B.C., making it one of the world's oldest cereal crops. In the Mediterranean region, centuries before recorded history, wheat was an important food. Wheat played such a dominant role in the Roman Empire that at the time it often was referred to as a "Wheat Empire".
Cultivation and repeated harvesting and sowing of the grains of wild grasses led to the selection of mutant forms with tough ears which remained attached to the ear during the harvest process, and larger grains.
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Wheat, which can be produced in a wide range of climates and soil conditions, grows in areas as far north as the Arctic Circle and as far south as the equator. The production of wheat is so widespread that it is being harvested somewhere in the world in any given month. But wheat grows best in regions having temperate climates with rainfall between 12 and 36 inches per year.
The number of wheat varieties exceeds any other seed-bearing plant. There are two general types of wheat -- Winter and Spring -- reflecting the time of year the seed is planted.
The world wheat market is enormous. Annual global wheat consumption is in excess of 550 million tonnes (20 billion bushels). Farmers around the world produce wheat to satisfy the growing appetite. China, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the European Community (whose major producers are France, the United Kingdom and Germany), and the United States, lead in world wheat production.
India has the largest area in the world under wheat. However, in terms of production, we are only the third largest behind EU-25 and China. India produces about 65-75 million tons of wheat a year, which is about 35% of India's total food grain production of 210-212 million tons. Since wheat and rice are grown in separate seasons, they do not compete for area.
The major wheat producing states of India are Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar, Which together account for around 93% of total production. Wheat is sown during November to January and harvested during March to April. The wheat marketing season in India is assumed to begin from April every year.
Indian wheat is largely soft/medium hard, medium protein, bread wheat. India also produces around 1.5 million tons of durum wheat, mostly in central and western India, which is not segregated and marketed separately. Government announces Minimum Support Prices (MSP), which is the minimum price at which procurement has to be carried. The total procurement of wheat by Government agencies ranges from 8 to 20 million tons, accounting for only 15-20% of the total production.
The government system handles only a small proportion of the total wheat production and private merchants handle the large proportion. Yet the support price operation and the public distribution system play a significant role in maintaining reasonable and stable food grain prices in the country for both the producers and consumers
India’s wheat production increase is driven principally by yield growth and by shift in production from other crops to wheat and an increase in cropping intensity. Among the major factors that affect yield, fertilizer use appears to have less effect in recent years while expansion in irrigated and high yielding variety (HYV) area seem to play a more important role in raising yield.
Wheat is widely cultivated as a cash crop because it produces a good yield per unit area, and yields versatile, high-quality flour that is widely used in baking that include many kinds and types of breads, cakes, noodles, crackers, breakfast foods, biscuits, cookies, and confectionary items.
Approximately two-thirds of the wheat produced in the world is used for human food and about one-sixth is used for livestock feed. Industrial uses, seed requirements, and post-harvest losses account for the remaining withdrawals from the world wheat granaries.
There are many factors that influence the pattern of wheat consumption in the world. The most important of these include: Price, supply, consumer income, availability of substitutes, and politics.
Market opportunities are influenced by a country's stage of economic development. Therefore, wheat consumption should not be looked upon as a constant for any particular region or country.
In a free market environment, increases in income of the poorest consumers generally results in a greater consumption of wheat for food. As consumer income increases wheat is gradually replaced by more expensive foods, particularly meat.
As a result, wheat consumption in more affluent countries often depends upon its use for both human food and livestock feed.
Depending on the population and income growth, poverty alleviation and the rate of urbanization, a demand-supply gap may open at a rate of about 1 to 2 per cent per year which is equivalent to 0.7 to 1.4 million tonnes of wheat, growing larger over the years.
Promoting rapid economic development and income growth in India which embraces the poor and particularly the rural poor, may lead to considerable growth in demand for wheat and thus an expansion in trade opportunities.