Drought spoils farm sector's dream run

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The agriculture sector witnessed record foodgrains output of 257.44 million tonnes this year. (Reuters) The agriculture sector witnessed record foodgrains output of 257.44 million tonnes this year. (Reuters)
SummaryThe agriculture sector witnessed record foodgrains output of 257.44 million tonnes this year.

shipments of over 10 million tonnes of rice and wheat but Iran's concern about quality of Indian wheat, which remained in news throughout the year, could not be resolved.

"Initially, we were not sure if our wheat will be accepted. We were wrong, the quality of our wheat is being recognised and we are getting good prices," Food Secretary Sudhir Kumar said.

If the country is able to produce 250 million tonnes next year, the performance of the agriculture sector would be noteworthy considering the problems faced by farmers in forms of poor monsoon this year and rise in cost of fertiliser, seed, diesel and labour. The UPA government's flagship programme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) pushed the labour wages and the government's decision to decontrol prices of phosphatic and potassic fertiliserspushed di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) and potash (MOP) out of reach for small and marginal farmers.

The year also saw the government failing to bring Food Security Bill, a pet project of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, into the Parliament for passage.

The government also could not set up a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to look into the issues of farmers' suicide as promised by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar in December 2011, despite the tragedy continuing to haunt some parts of the country. The Food Security Bill, which seeks to provide legal right over subsidised foodgrains to 70 per cent of population, was introduced in Parliament in December last year and was sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

The panel is yet to submit recommendations, thus delaying the enactment of the legislation.

Nevertheless, the Centre was utilising the time and energy to fine tune the public distribution system (PDS) through computerisation and testing the feasibility of providing direct transfer of food subsidy to beneficiaries.

A pilot project in six union territories (UTs), namely Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, Lakshadweep and Puducherry for direct transfer of food subsidy under PDS is on the anvil from next year.

Under this scheme, foodgrains will be issued to ration card holders at the economic cost. The cash subsidy, which is difference between the economic cost and issue price, will be credited to the beneficiaries' bank account in advance.

It is quiet evident that the success of this pilot project and passage of Food Bill would determine the food management and trade policies going forward, experts

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