Wheat production may exceed record estimate, says Pawar

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Feb 18 2012, 06:33am hrs
Indias wheat output may exceed the record estimate of 88.31 million tonne in the crop year through June, providing necessary support to the government as it prepares to raise subsidised sales of grain to the poor under the food security Act, according to agriculture minister Sharad Pawar.

Sporadic incidence of yellow rusts in key producing states of Punjab and Haryana are unlikely to hit wheat output, Pawar said on Friday. However, the government needs to invest more in agriculture to scale up or even maintain the current elevated level of grain production, he added.

I am not at all worried about wheat production because the situation is good. Whatever the assessment we have made on production, there will be improvement. I dont expect any problem, Pawar said. According to the second-advanced estimate released this month, wheat production in 2011-12 is expected to trip last years record level of 86.87 million tonne, driving up the countrys overall grain production to an all-time-high of 250.42 million tonne.

There wont be any problem in meeting the requirement of the National Food Security Bill.... My worry is we have to keep continuation (in raising grain output). For the sake of continuity, we have to provide more investment in agriculture, he said, calling for adequate precautionary measures to mitigate impact of natural disasters in bad years.

The government is planning to provide legal entitlement to 63.5% of the countrys population for subsidised grain under the food security Act, and it needs to procure more than 60 million tonne of rice and wheat a year to implement it. Significantly, it has never purchased 60 million tonne in

a year.

The minister also said the country needs to work more vigorously towards driving up pulses output to meet the growing demand for the protein-rich staple.

India, the worlds largest consumer of pulses, produced a record 18.24 million tonne of pulses in 2010-11 after almost a decade of stagnant output below 15 million tonne. Still, it imports pulses to cater for its annual demand of more than 19 million tonne, as a resurgent and health-conscious middle class with higher disposable income has been scaling up purchases.

The country expects to produce 17.28 million tonne of pulses in 2011-12. Still there will be a small gap and will probably be met through imports, Pawar said, adding a lot needs to be done to bridge the gap in supply and demand.

Before 2010-11, India used to import at least one-fifth of its annual of its annual consumption from countries, including Australia, Canada and Myanmar.