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Economic Survey 2013: Declining per capita availability of foodgrains a major concern

In comparison, Indian agriculture has performed well primarily due to timely policy interventions, the survey says.

Updated: Feb 27, 2013, 01.59 PM IST
In comparison, Indian agriculture has performed well primarily due to timely policy interventions, the survey says.
In comparison, Indian agriculture has performed well primarily due to timely policy interventions, the survey says.
NEW DELHI: Declining per capita availability of foodgrains has been a major concern in India, says the Economic Survey for 2012-13.

Foodgrains production reached a record level of 259.32 million tonnes in 2012-13.

"In comparison, Indian agriculture has performed well primarily due to timely policy interventions. Nevertheless, the average annual growth rate of 3.6 per cent during the Eleventh Five Year Plan for the agriculture & allied sector fell short of the target of 4 per cent", the survey says.

Indian agriculture is broadly a story of success. It has done remarkably well in terms of output growth, despite weather and price shocks in the past few years. The growth target for agriculture in the Twelfth Five Year Plan remains at 4 per cent, as in the Eleventh Five Year Plan.

According to the survey, it is not only important to increase per capita availability of foodgrains but also to ensure the right amounts of food items in the food basket of the common man. For this, a thrust on horticulture products and protein-rich items is required for enhancing per capita availability of food items as well as ensuring nutritional security, the survey adds.

The survey notes that the pace of agricultural growth in the eastern and north-eastern regions has been slower than in the rest of the country.

The good prospects of production in many crops in these parts of the country should quickly be taken advantage of in the years to come. Hence, "a strategy for agricultural development in eastern and north-eastern India comprising multiple livelihood opportunities, sustainable agricultural development through a farming systems approach, efficient national resources management, ecoregional technology missions, and rice-basedfarming systems needs to be put in place", the survey says.

Another critical issue is supply chain management in agricultural marketing in India. Farmers' access to markets is hampered by poor roads, rudimentary market infrastructure, and excessive regulation. Many agricultural crops are perishable in nature and post-harvest handling issues and marketing problems affect the farm incomes. It is necessary that we evolve mechanisms for linking comparison in terms of yield levels is not creditable with it achieving a much lower rank in many of these crops, the survey adds.

Climate change and extreme weather events with greater intensity and frequency can have serious implications for our agriculture sector and create greater instability in food production and thereby farmers' livelihood. Recently the government allowed foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail, which has been supported by many farmer organizations as well, and it can pave the way for investment in new technology and marketing of agricultural produce in India.

There has been substantial increase in the MSPs of various crops over the last few years. Though considered necessary for incentivizing farmers, the MSP signals the floor price for the produce. "Urgent attention needs to be accorded to efficient food stocks management, timely offloading of stocks, and a stable and predictable trade policy," the survey says.

Finally the survey says, "strengthening agricultural statistics with reliable and timely availability of forecasts of agricultural crops is also an immediate need as the gaps in agricultural statistics will hamper agricultural development planning and policymaking.

Stating that the country faces the stiff challenge of feeding its growing population, the Survey said that there are constraints and challenges that need to be addressed so that the farming community is motivated to produce more and the target of 4 per cent agri-growth is met in the 12th Plan.

"Improvement in yields holds the key for India to remain self-sufficient in foodgrains and also make a place for itself in many agricultural crops and products in the international market," the Survey noted.

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