Govt targets a record 273 million tonnes foodgrain output for 2017-18

Source: LiveMint.com, Apr 26, 2017

New Delhi: Buoyed by forecasts of a normal monsoon, the Centre has targeted a record foodgrain production during the 2017-18 crop year beginning July.

The agriculture ministry has set a production target of 273 million tonnes (mt) of grains and pulses during the year, marginally higher than the 272 million tonnes estimated for 2016-17, also a record harvest following a normal monsoon last year.

In 2015-16, India’s foodgrain production stood at 252 mt.

“In just one year, farmers managed to grow 5 million tonnes of additional pulses (in 2016-17) and within two to three years India will be self-sufficient in pulses,” agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said on Tuesday, addressing state officials at a national conference on the upcoming kharif crop season at which targets were announced.

During 2017-18, the ministry has set a target of producing 23 mt of pulses, higher than the 22 mt produced last year. In 2015-16, a crippling drought cut India’s pulses output to just 16.4 mt, leading to a surge in imports and higher retail prices.

In the event of a normal monsoon and higher production, agricultural growth will likely be around 4% (in 2017-18), agriculture secretary Shobhana Pattanayak said, addressing the conference. This implies consecutive years of robust farm growth-—the sector is forecast to grow at 4.4% in 2016-17, after a poor 0.8% growth in 2015-16 and 0.3% contraction the year before due to back-to-back droughts (in 2014 and 2015).

Pattanayak said that the Centre was working on reforming agricultural markets to realize the goal of “one-nation, one-market”, and added that the government would aim to cover 40% of land holdings under the revamped crop insurance scheme.

“The official mindset is that higher production and over 4% growth rate means everything is fine in agriculture,” said Devinder Sharma, a Chandigarh-based farm policy analyst. “In the past year, the growth in production has not kept pace with farmer incomes, which in reality plunged due to lower prices (for pulses and horticultural crops). Despite higher output, farmers are running into losses, leading to indebtedness and suicides,” he added.

According to a background note prepared by the ministry and distributed among state officials at the conference, the Centre has written to all states to work on ways to double farmer incomes by 2022—a goal set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Some states like Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh have already devised suitable strategies in this regard,” the note pointed out.

On the crop insurance scheme, the note said that states should adopt use of smartphones for fast transmission of yield data (in case of crop loss) to aid faster payouts to farmers. The Centre will provide states 50% of costs of technology adoption, the note said, adding, “claims (during 2016-17) need to be settled and states must release their share of subsidy and companies should compute and settle the claims.”

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