India's agriculture sector will expand more than 4% in 2017-18, farm minister Radha Mohan Singh said, trying to allay concerns raised by the statistical office's projection of sluggish growth in one of the most important segments of the economy.
Increased horticulture and fisheries production, a robust kharif harvest and near-normal planting in the ongoing rabi seasonwill hold the growth at a healthy rate, he said.
Last week, the Central Statistics Officeforecast 2017-18 growth in the farm and allied sector at 2.1%. Last year, the sector had achieved a 4.9% expansion.
"This year 'krishi vikas' (agriculture expansion) will be good. It will easily grow to over 4% when the final estimates are released," the minister said.
Singh said he was confident that the country would see two back-to-back years of robust growth in the agriculture sector.
Due to delayed onset of monsoon, the kharif or summer crop planting was delayed, the minister said, suggesting that it probably had influenced the statistical office's projection. Kharif acreage that was lower in August had turned positive by December, he said.
"Further, we have yet to take in account the crop planting which happens between March-April and June-July, called 'jayad', where farmers go for 60-day crop planting," the minister said.
Agriculture growth had accelerated to 4.9% in 2016-17 from 1.2% in drought-hit 2015-16. In the 2014-15, it was almost flat. Monsoon was 12-14% in deficit those years. This time, most of the country received good rains.
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.