Govt expects record wheat harvest this year

Written by Press Trust of India | New Delhi | Updated: Jan 14 2014, 20:24pm hrs
India's wheat production this year is likely to surpass the previous record of 94.88 million tonne (mt) on better coverage and good weather conditions, MoS for agriculture Tariq Anwar said on Monday.

India, the world's second-biggest wheat grower, had produced a record 94.88 mt wheat in the 2011-12 crop year (July-June), buoyed by a good monsoon. Poor rains in 2012-13 lowered the output to 92.46 mt.

Wheat sowing so far has been encouraging supported by good weather conditions.... We will beat all previous records in production this year," Anwar told reporters on the sidelines of an agri-business summit organised by industry body Assocham.

He said there were reports of white rust fungal disease in wheat crops in Haryana. The government has already taken measures to control the spread of the disease. We have already given warning to farmers and alerted state governments to take risk management steps," he added. Wheat is the main rabi (winter) crop. Sowing begins from October, while harvesting from April.

According to latest official data, wheat has been sown in a record 31.18 million hectare till last week the 2013-14 rabi season, as against 29.12 million hectare in the year-ago.

So far, wheat acreage remains higher in UP at 9.94 million hectares, Madhya Pradesh at 5.78 million hectares and Rajasthan at 3 million hectares. Wheat acreage remains lower so far in Punjab, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Assam, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh.

Addressing the event, Anwar said the challenge of maintaining an efficient food supply chain is not limited to controlling post-harvest loss. It also involves creation of a system where every one in the supply chain is properly incentivised to maximise production and efficiency, he said, adding that an efficient supply chain can adversely affect both producers and consumers.

Referring to the recent price rise in onion, the minister said its production remains around 17-18 mt but it is purely because of inefficiencies in procurement and distribution that such extreme price distortion takes place.

To boost production and check prices of fruits and veggies, Anwar said milk procurement model of the cooperative Amul can be emulated in the fruits and vegetables sector.

Just as in the case of milk, small farmers producing food is handicapped in terms of availability of credit, holding capacity of his produce as well as access to technical knowhow. The milk sector had all these problems but the Amul model overcame them, the minister said.

Pitching for contract farming in horticulture, Anwar said Indian farmers require much higher degree of hand holding than what can be provided through the government machinery. Contract farming can provide the close hand holding regarding seed selection, seed treatment, soil testing, fertilisers, pest management and income support through procurement which government programme cannot possible provide, he said. These are the kind of services being provided by companies engaged in contract farming in poultry sector and by cooperatives in milk sector, he added.

Anwar also released a paper on Agri-infrastructure in India - the value chain perspective jointly prepared by Assocham and Yes Bank. It has recommended encouraging private wholesale markets, reclassification of priority sector guidelines for enabling largest credit flow into agri-infrastructure, viability gap funding in marketing infrastructure development projects and single window agency for implementing various projects.

It also suggested higher investments under public-private -partnership mode in export oriented agri infrastructure, improved rail movement and transportation.