NEW DELHI: Rural India will gain from strong growth in horticulture, poultry, dairies and fisheries, in addition to bumper farm production that is estimated to hit a new record this crop year, agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said.
The government’s focus on making India self-sufficient in food grains will ensure that the country does not import pulses in the years ahead, Singh told ET on Thursday, a day after his ministry forecast major crop output to reach nearly 272 million tonnes in the year through June 2017. The estimated production is 2.6% more than the current record, achieved in 2013-14.
“Due to the concerted efforts of scientists to get early-maturing varieties of pulses and increase in minimum support price, pulses production is on the rise for the past two years. I am hopeful that in the next few years the country will be self-sufficient in pulses,” he said.
The minister is optimistic about the farm sector. “The second advance estimate figure of major crop at 271.98 million tonnes has made me very confident that the agriculture growth can further increase,” he said. “Further, (in) production of milk, egg, fisheries and horticulture, things will be even better,” he added. Agriculture growth remained sluggish at 1.2% in drought-hit fiscal 2015-16.
In the previous year, it was almost flat. Monsoon was 12-14% in deficit those years. Ramesh Chand, a member of the government's premier think tank Niti Aayog, had earlier said that agricultural growth would touch 6% in 2016-17.
Agriculture accounts for 17% of India's economy and more than half the country's population depends on farms directly or indirectly. Healthy growth in agriculture is also good news for the fast moving consumer goods segment, which gets about a third of its sales from rural areas. The minister said during this rabi season, crop sowing had expanded 6%. Sowing of wheat grew 7%, while the increase in pulses was 11% and in oilseeds, it was 6%.
Singh said the entire credit of record production of wheat, rice, coarse cereals, pulses and oilseed goes to farmers, state governments, government officials and agriculture scientists. “The weather was good with the country receiving bountiful monsoon rains. The trend should continue with government policy initiatives targeted to double farmers’ income,” he said.
Government policies initiated in the past two years — from credit to farmers on affordable rates and assured supply of seeds and fertilisers to the Electronic National Agricultural Market and assured prices — will significantly reduce the risks that the farmer faces, the minister said. In the Budget for fiscal 2017-18, the government has increased the funds for rural, agriculture and allied sectors by 24% from a year earlier to Rs 1,87,223 crore, he added.