Grain output can exceed 260 mt during 12th Plan: Agri secy

Written by Banikinkar Pattanayak | New Delhi | Updated: Apr 1 2012, 07:42am hrs
Indias grain output can easily exceed 260 million tonne during the next Plan period with greater focus on eastern states, agriculture secretary P K Basu said on Friday. He said this will provide relief to policy makers as they prepare to implement the proposed Food Security Act.

India, the worlds second-largest grain grower, expects to produce a record 250.42 million tonne in the current crop year through June as eastern states such as Bihar and Jharkhand long considered a drag doubled productivity in just one year with greater Centres intervention in things including supplies of subsidised and adequate farm inputs on time.

Eastern India is a sleeping giant. If we raise productivity there by one tonne a hectare, the country's production will rise significantly. In a good year when there is no monsoon failure, we can easily achieve 260 million tonne of food grain production in the next plan period (2012-17) just by focussing on eastern India, Basu told FE.

The secretarys statement assumes importance as many analysts have raised doubts about the sustainability of the food security act that aims to guarantee supplies of cheaper grains to 75% of rural and 50% of urban households. The country needs over 60 million tonne of rice and wheat a year to meet its obligation under the proposed Act, and the farm sector will be pressured to deliver.

Significantly, the government has never procured 60 million tonne a year. The Cabinet has already cleared the draft food security bill, a pet project of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, although the Parliamentary approval is yet to be sought.

The agriculture ministry has maintained that the farm sector will be able to produce grains for the successful implementation of the Act, but it needs more investment to scale up productivity and tie other loose ends. Higher output is also required to keep supplies steady and prevent any irrational flare-up of food inflation.

Encouraged by the sucess in grain production in eastern states in 2011-12, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has more than doubled budgetary allocation to R1,000 crore for 2012-13 fiscal to further strengthen programmes to ensure a green revolution in those regions. The eastern belt is estimated to add around 15 million tonne to the country's granary this year.

Still, eastern states such as Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha are trailing Punjab and Haryana by a huge margin in improving productivity, and, therefore, drag down the national average yield.

Indias foodgrain yield has risen by 10% in the past four years but it still lags the world average, posing challenges for policy makers as well as scientists to scale up production further to match the growing need of a billion-plus population.

The average productivity of foodgrain inched up to 1,921 kg per hectare in the crop year through June, compared with 1,756 kg a hectare in 2006-07, according to official data. However, while rice yield of 2,178 kg per hectare in India lags the global average of 4,320 kg per hectare, wheat productivity stands at 2,907 kg a hectare against the world average of 3,039 kg per hectare, and pulse yield of 659 kg per hectare trails the world average of 930 kg per hectare.