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Agri-output: Glimmer of hope

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  27 Sep 2016 12:00 AM GMT

Achievable Targets

Despite two consecutive drought years, production of foodgrains went up in 2015-16, and the target for 2016-17 is a practical one. The Centre has realistically set an ambitious target of producing a record 270.1 million tonnes (mt) of foodgrains in the ongoing crop year [beginning June]. The government’s target for 2016-17 is 7 percent higher than the 252.23 mt of production estimated for 2015-16. The ambitious target is even higher than India’s record foodgrain output of 265 mt in 2013-14. Last year, the government had set a target of 264 mt (2015-16), which eventually fell short by 12 mt—according to the latest estimates. Similarly, for 2014-15, the centre had set a target of 261 mt that eventually fell short by 9 mt. In 2013-14, owing to a good monsoon, India had surpassed its foodgrain production target of 259 mt by over 5 mt. in the current year also good monsoon have been helping, save and except severe floods in a number of regions.

On the pulses front [India imports nearly a quarter of its domestic consumption] some noticeable change is expected of late. India’s pulses production is targeted at 20.75 mt in 2016-17, 21.6 percent higher than the estimated 17.06 mt produced in 2015-16. Target production for pulses——is higher than the best-ever production of 19.25 mt achieved in 2013-14.

Similarly, target production of wheat is 96.5 mt for 2016-17, higher than the estimated 94mt crop size in 2015-16, and surpassing the highest-ever wheat crop of 95.85 mt in 2013-14. Target for oilseed production, an area where India is heavily dependent on imports, is set at 35mt, 35 percent higher than the 25.9 mt estimated for 2015-16. Targets for cotton output is set at 36 million bales (of 170kg each) for 2016-17, compared to 30.5 million bales estimated for 2015-16.

Side by side, it has been the fact that during 2013-14, farming was profitable and average returns were ranging between 20 percent to 30 percent for most crops. But, due to a variety of reasons prices have not been that remunerative and returns are even negative for some crops – the question lies that without sufficient hike in support prices (at which centre procures foodgrains from farmers to supply under the subsidised public distribution system) farmers will not see an incentive to produce Agriculture sector has been showing a topsy- tarvy rate of growth over the years. Who is to be blamed – planning methods, implementation or both?

No Question of Complacency

No doubt - over the last decade Indian agriculture has become more robust with record production of foodgrains and oilseeds. Increased procurement, consequently, has added huge stocks of foodgrains in the graries. India is one of the world’s top producers of rice, wheat, milk, fruits, and vegetables. However, given that India is still home to a quarter of all undernourished people in the world and since on an average almost half the total expenditure of about half the households is on food, increasing the efficiency of the farm-to-fork value chain is crucial for elimiting poverty and malnutrition

Let us go deeper!

The reality - In India’s planning this is nothing uncommon – set the high targets and ultimately become a laggard! Most of the plans lack the realistic touch in as much as sectoral target fixing cannot ignore the spatial dimensions, regiol peculiarities and related other sociological factors. More than often the politics pushes beck the economic positives. Rather economics is used for achieving the political purposes. Not only is this the reality in India but in the entire developing world. Either the projects are not taken up or even when the same is taken up the rate of progress remains at a palpably low level – cost escalation is rewarded! What is more projects completed are not subsequently followed up, supervised adequately as a result of which the same assignment is to be repeated within a short span of time involving more expenses.

This is a reality for the farm sector as well. Target for 12th Five year Plan has been, no doubt, nicely placed. But the rate of growth remains the same traditiol in ture and not much achievement could thus be there yet as a result. Can it be said with confidence that another big setback will not to be there again by March 2017 so far as achieving the target!

The potentialities still is so high – neighbours’ envy. How many countries are there in the world that can produce grapes twice in a year! The quality of many horticultural crops ebles India to remain largely unbeatable in the global market. In spite of competition becoming intense – hotter and hotter – we are able to retain the markets for many agri-commodities. The flip side – we have to remain contended with less than 1 percent share in global trade in agri-commodies!

So the question of complacency is not at all there rather the time is ripe for looking at the inhibiting factors. The point here is that had we been one of the grain bowls [still the scope remains] by now we could have reaped large benefits from the rising intertiol prices of the agri-commodities. The most important factor on this score is that demand for such commodities – especially the food grains- would never come down rather it is all set to go up over time. Population upsurge coupled with growing demand from industrial sectors could keep the demand factor at reasobly high level.

Importance Must Be Well Understood

Whatever is, the lead is to come from the two giants – India and Chi. As a matter of fact the world has to depend on these two regions in the days to come. Chi has, of late, also has been stressing hard on this sector, clearly realising those big industries alone or an export-led growth ultimately hinges heavily on how the food factor extends support. For India, fortutely that sort of negligence has not been there – the missing factor remained at not properly exploring the resources at a quicker pace. Had it been so by now we could have ruled the world so far as many such commodities are concerned. A lot thus depend on realistic assumptions / projections.

That is why the urgent need is there to go for overall farm development efforts. For that matter needless to say the infrastructure holds the key. The loss incurred during the entire production process inclusive of the damage done in the unscientific threshing, rat mece, field loss, can be minimised. Without proper training imparted to the farmers as regards post harvest technology not much can be expected on this score. Connectivity between the producing zone and the selling zones calls for immediate reinforcing. Buy-back arrangement is obviously a good process provided the actual producer receives the legitimate benefit in due course.

The upshot is that whichever country who had not attached enough of importance on this score had to bear the brunt. It is also a fact that overnight success is not more than a wishful thinking. Systematic planning is the only way out. And for that matter the tools of regiol planning can be readily made use of. Regiol peculiarities must be the starting point of any realistic decision making on this score. Economic factors alone cannot give a full-fledged guidance as the strength of non-economic factors count for no less. There is always the gap between the cup and the leap. Initiating change has never been an easy matter and change resisting factors count for.

Let us keep our hopes alive!!

(The writer is a noted Magement Economist, an Intertiol Commentator on Business and Economic Trends and Principal, Eminent College of Magement and Technology, can be reached at m.bibhas@gmail.com)

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