Year of agriculture ends on silent note

New Delhi | Updated: Dec 31 2008, 08:04am hrs
The year bidding farewell was the year of agriculture by far, with record foodgrains production and a whopping Rs 71,000-crore loan waiver for farmers, but these developments were sidlined by other issues of serious concern like high inflation and a slowdown of the economy.

The farm sector, which grew at 2.5% during the 10th Five-Year Plan, bounced back to achieve a growth rate of 4.5% during 2007-08, exceeding the targeted 4% growth, for the 11th Plan (2007-12) period. The year had a perfect beginning, with the UPA government announcing a Rs 60,000-crore agriculture loan waiver scheme in its last Budget before the general elections in 2009. The estimate of the relief package was later raised to Rs 71,000 crore, covering close to four crore farmers.

The government, which was grappling with rising prices for most part of the year, got key support from the farm sector as India achieved record output of foodgrains, coarse cereals, oilseed and cotton. The achievement was remarkable indeed, as several nations were battling food crisis in 2008. Foodgrains output touched the 230.67 million tonnes (MT)- mark, comprising record output of wheat (78.4 MT), rice (96.43 MT) and pulses (15.11 MT). Coarse cereals production surged to an all-time-high of 40.73 MT, along with oilseeds at 28.82 MT, and cotton at 25.81 lakh bales.

The agricultural community could not have responded in a better way to various initiatives taken by the Centre since the last year to prop up the agri sector, the contribution of which in overall economic growth has not been that impressive.

The Centre announced two flagship programmes the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) and the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna (RKVY)- last year with a corpus of about Rs 30,000 crore to spur growth in the sector. While the NFSM is aimed at enhancing the production of rice by 10 MT, wheat by 8 MT and pulses by 2 MT, RKVY has a target of incentivising states for raising investments in the sector.

Besides, the Centre raised the minimum support prices of different crops substantially, realising that production cannot be increased without extending adequate remuneration to farmers, as recommended by a panel headed by MS Swaminatha - the architect of the Green Revolution. The support price of paddy was also increased significantly.