India forecast hotter-than-normal temperatures until May, posing a threat to crops and increasing the risk that the country’s curbs on grain exports will remain. 

Maximum temperatures are likely to be above normal in most parts of the country, Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, director general of the India Meteorological Department, said in an online briefing Friday. Higher-than-normal heat wave days are also seen during the three months to May, he said.  

The prediction poses fresh challenges to the government, which is trying to keep food prices under check before general elections by restricting shipments of wheat, rice and sugar, and selling grains from state reserves in the local market. Higher temperatures may hurt wheat crops, which have progressed well so far and are at the grain-filling stage. India sees a 1.3% rise in output to 112 million tons this year.        

It’s another example of climate change making India vulnerable to extreme weather events. The frequency and intensity of floods, heat waves and droughts have been rising and hundreds of people are getting killed every year. Crop damages in the past years have forced the nation to turn to protectionist measures. Local supplies have improved but food prices stay elevated. 

A hotter summer can also test the government’s ability to ensure power supplies ahead of the polls in the coming months, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi will seek a third five-year term. Higher-than-usual temperatures and heat waves last year caused India’s peak electricity demand to soar to a record, putting pressure on power grids.

Temperatures in March may be above average over many areas of southern, northeast, central and northwest regions, Mohapatra said. The El Niño weather pattern, which can bring dry weather to parts of Asia, will continue during the Indian summer season, he said.

Average maximum temperatures across the country were near-normal in February, except in the southern region where they hit the highest since 1901, according to the weather office.

--With assistance from Rajesh Kumar Singh.

(Updates to add comments and details throughout.)