Low rainfalls is no dampner for India's foodgrain Production!
Low rainfalls is no dampner for India's foodgrain Production! | Credit: The Hindu

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Low rainfalls is no dampner for India's foodgrain Production!

Sep 19, 2018

Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat are likely to choose a new payment scheme.

Despite irregular rainfall in some parts of India, the Agriculture Ministry has aimed a foodgrain production increase of 285.2 million tons for the year 2018 – 19, a slight increase from last year’s harvest of 284.8 million tons.

According to the Indian Meteorological Department, rainfall deficit in the country during the current monsoon season is at 10 percent now.

Parshottam Rupala, Minister of State for Agriculture, told media personalities and participants at the Ministry’s annual conference on strategies for the winter crop season, or rabi, on Tuesday that: “Some areas got extra rainfall, some areas were deficient. But in spite of the irregular rains, we are expecting that the overall production will still be good for the kharif season.”

However, the government did not clarify the reasons for their buoyant forecast when rainfall has been below than expected this year, with some parts of the country being ravaged by floods.

The 2018 – 19 targets for wheat at 100 million tons, and targets for rice production at 113 million tons, are slightly higher than last year’s harvest count. However, the targets for coarse cereals, pulses and maize are marginally lower.

Target for cotton output is set to be raised from 34.89 million bales to 35.5 million bales of 170 kilograms each, while oilseed output is targeted from 31.2 million tons last year to 36 million tons for 2018 – 19. Sugarcane output target for 2018 – 19 has been set at 355 million tons, which is reduced from last year’s 376.91 million tons.

Shobhana K Pattanayak, Agriculture secretary, said that various schemes of the government like Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, e-NAM, Soil Health Card scheme, and Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana were expected to increase farmers’ income and farm output. He said: “So far, crop conditions are excellent and we expect a good production in kharif.”

Pattanayak noted States should ensure farmers to take insurance covers for all natural calamity such as floods and droughts under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana to safeguard their farmers. He pointed out that the southern state Kerala did not take insurance cover for flood, but had taken insurance only for drought.

Speaking to the media, Agriculture Commissioner S.K. Malhotra said: “Targets should be balanced, not too high.” He noted: “We must produce enough to address food and nutrition security needs, but we must also address the income security of farmers across the country. If targets are too high, and there is excess production, farmers will suffer,” adding that there was a necessity to improve access to export markets in the case of excess production.

On observing the last two years of normal monsoons and record harvests, several commodities had their prices crashed, which hurt many farmers across the country. The government has increased procurement of oilseeds and pulses in an effort to ensure that more farmers benefit by receiving the MSP - minimum support price for these crops even as the market rates continue to fall, but that has led to a scarcity of storage capacity.

NAFED - National Agriculture Cooperative Marketing Federation of India’s executive director, S K Verma, said: “We are holding 44 lakh tons of pulses, 57 lakh tons including oilseeds.” He added: “In States like Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, there is no space left in the godowns.”

Warehouse capacity has made some States to consider the new Central scheme to pay farmers for their oilseeds the cash differential between market prices and minimum support price. A ministry official told the media that Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have expressed their desire in opting for the scheme, which was approved by the Central Government’s cabinet as part of a 15,053 crore procurement policy.