Non-foodgrain crop output hike a tough affair: NCAER

Mumbai, Jun 29 | Updated: Jun 30 2008, 05:34am hrs
Raising non-foodgrain crop output may turn out to be a challenging affair, the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) said in its study here. Indias non-foodgrain economy includes oilseeds, sugarcane, fibres like cotton, jute, spices, fruits and vegetables, plantation crops and other miscellaneous crops like tobacco and guar seed. Among these, fruits and vegetables, oilseeds, spices, sugarcane and fibres account for an overwhelming share of the total output.

A lot would depend on the achievement in technology, because productivity growth holds the key when limitations are placed on the availability of area. Better research and development and significant changes in extension facilities along with superior post harvest management, marketing and processing are extremely vital, the NCAER study said. Since the 1990s onwards, the growth in non-foodgrain production of 1.9% per annum has outspaced the output growth of foodgrains at 1.1% per annum. As a consequence, there has been an increase in the share of non-food grain crops and a fall in the proportion of food-grains in the total value of crop output, the NCAER study said.

The Government has also taken several initiatives. In the case of oilseeds, a Technology Mission on Oilseeds (TMO), which was initiated in 1986 to increase output is under implementation. The scope for this mission has been expanded to include foodgrains, such as pulses and maize.

It is important to note, however, that, barring the exception of soyabean, there is little to cheer about in the oilseed sector.

Among other non-foodgrain crops, cotton has received particular attention through a similar technology mission. But it witnessed significant growth only after the introduction of Bt Cotton--a large part of which is contributed by productivity growth, it said.

The outlook for non-foodgrains in the short-to-medium- term is a mixed one. This is particularly true in the light of the recent surge in food prices, NCAER said.

A significant increase in prices of cereals due to fall in output in a few exporting countries and sharp increase in demand for commodities that are linked to bio-fuels like maize, sugar and oilseeds, have all contributed to the current situation of food scarcity in world markets. PTI