Govt goes bold, sets 261-mt grain target

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Jul 23 2014, 06:35am hrs
The agriculture ministry has set an ambitious grain production target of 261 million tonne (mt) for the current crop year that started in July, just 3.4 mt lower than the record harvest in 2013-14, despite forecast of a below-normal monsoon.

The target for rice production in 2014-15 is fixed at 106 mt, compared with the actual output of a record 106.29 mt last year. However, the planting of paddy the most water-intensive crop dropped 17.4% until last Friday from a year before to 12.73 million hectares. MoS for agriculture Sanjeev Kumar Balyan conveyed the production targets of crops in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.

Although the kharif season, which is hit the hardest in case of wide-scale drought, accounted for 49% of the 264.38 mt of grain production last year, it made up for over 85% of rice and over 72% of coarse cereal and oilseed output. Only last week, Balyan told Parliament that kharif production could be far below last year's level.

Analysts termed the target ambitious, given that rainfall deficit until Monday was 29% of the LPA, while water reserves levels until July 17 were 12.6% lower than a 10-year average and summer planting was down by 45% until July 18.

Similarly, the country is targeting to produce 41.50 mt of coarse cereal in 2014-15, as against 42.68 mt a year before. But the area under coarse cereals was trailing last years level by a whopping 62% until last Friday. Wheat production is targeted at 94 mt this year, compared with 95.85 mt in 2013-14. Importantly, the production of oilseeds has been targeted at 33 mt, higher than the actual production of 32.41 mt last year, even though areas under the crops until July 18 were down by a whopping 72%.

But government officials said the target is achievable considering rainfall deficit has narrowed from 43% of the LPA until July 10 to 29% now. Since the monsoon is in an active phase and more rains are expected over the next few days, sowing will pick up fast and water levels could improve significantly. This will also augur well for rabi crops, they added.

Ashok Gulati, former CACP chief, told FE: "If in August and September we have good rains, quite a bit of loss in kharif can be compensated in rabi with proactive approach of the government. If not, then we may get hit by lower production."