In this file photo taken on April 28, 2022, people rest in the shade of a tree on a hot summer afternoon in Lucknow in the central Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. (PHOTO / AP)
MUMBAI/NEW DELHI – India is likely to experience heatwaves between March and May, especially in the key wheat producing central and northern states, the weather office said on Tuesday, as the country recorded its highest ever maximum temperature in February.
A heatwave for the second straight year could dent production of wheat, rapeseed and chickpeas, and complicate government's efforts to bring down food inflation.
Higher temperatures could also lift power consumption above supplies during the summer season.
"Enhanced probability of occurrence of heatwave during March to May season is likely over many regions of Central and adjoining Northwest India," the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said in a statement.
In this file photo taken on April 28, 2022, a farmer harvests wheat on the outskirts of Jammu, India. (PHOTO / AP)
Government officials warned last year that the South Asian country could see more frequent heatwaves in future and that average temperatures, even during the monsoon season, have been rising over the last two decades
In March, the crucial month for the maturity of winter-sown crops, above normal maximum temperatures are likely over most parts of the country except peninsular India, it said.
ALSO READ: Mediterranean marine heatwaves threaten coastal livelihoods
"Wheat crop has already been witnessing stress due to higher temperature. Warmer March would definitely lead to yield loss," said a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trade house.
India grows only one wheat crop in a year, with planting in October and November, and harvesting from March.
A heatwave curtailed India's wheat production in 2022 and forced the world's second largest producer to ban exports.
Average maximum temperature in February was 29.54 degrees Celsius, the highest since 1901, when the IMD started keeping weather records.
ALSO READ: WMO: Extreme heat waves 'here to stay'
The country received 68 percent lower rainfall than the normal in February, the weather office said.
Government officials warned last year that the South Asian country could see more frequent heatwaves in future and that average temperatures, even during the monsoon season, have been rising over the last two decades.
READ MORE: UN: Almost every child on earth to suffer from heatwaves by 2050
"Temperatures have already touched unusual highs at some places in the country," India's health ministry said in a letter, seen by Reuters, sent to all states and union territories on Tuesday.
The government directed health departments across the country to implement "heat-related health action plans".