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Rain deficit may hit kharif foodgrains output by 7%

Foodgrain output was 129.24 MT in the kharif (summer) season of the 2013-14 crop year (July-June).
On account of 12 per cent deficit in rains so far, total area covered under kharif crops is lower by 3 per cent from last year.

Foodgrain output is estimated to fall by about 9 MT due to likely drop in rice production by 3.7 MT, coarse cereals by 4.5 MT and pulses by nearly a million tonne. Releasing the first production estimate for kharif crop, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said: ‘...coverage in sowing position is as per average of last five years and is only 3 per cent lower than the situation of last year. With improved rainfall, it is estimated that kharif foodgrain production will be approximately 120 million tonnes.’

On farm growth projection for this fiscal, he said the government would try to achieve last year's level despite adverse weather situation that has resulted in drought and floods in some parts of the country.

Singh said this is the initial and conservative kharif forecast, and production could rise in later estimates as observed in the past years. As per the latest estimate, rice production is estimated to decline to 88.02 MT in the kharif season of 2014-15 crop year from 91.69 MT in the year-ago.

Similarly, production of coarse cereals is projected to drop to 27.05 MT from 31.53 MT, while pulses output would be lower at 5.2 MT from 6.02 MT.

On reasons for likely fall in kharif output, Agriculture Secretary Ashish Bahuguna said: ‘There was delayed monsoon rains which led to late sowing. This will of course have impact on crop productivity.’ Due to lower area coverage and productivity, production of most of the crops is expected to be lower than their record production levels achieved last year, an official statement said. The Agriculture Ministry has pegged oilseeds production at 19.66 million tonnes for the kharif season this year, as against 22.4 MT a year-ago.

Sugarcane output is projected to fall by 7.23 MT to 344.79 MT, while cotton output is estimated to decline by nearly 2 million bales to 34.62 million bales (of 170 kg each) in the review period.

‘When I took over the ministry, there were fears of drought affecting the sowing acreage drastically. However, the improved rainfall and several measures including diesel and seed subsidy helped to reduce impact,’ the minister said.

The state governments have been asked to gear up for rabi (winter) sowing and compensate the kharif production losses, the minister said at a press conference called to share his ministry’s achievements in the first 100 days. Singh announced that the government will launch new scheme on crop insurance during this fiscal, while a separate programme on organic farming will be unveiled in next two months. On depleting onion stock and possible price rise in this commodity next month, the minister assured that the government will keep a check on prices of fruits and veggies.

Asked about rising number of farmers’ suicides, Singh said it was because of the wrong policies of the previous government. ‘This is quite unfortunate. We will make efforts to boost farmers’ income and agriculture growth.’

On subsidy being given to poor people and farmers, Singh said: ‘About 70 per cent of people who are dependent on agriculture are also consumers. We are not giving subsidy directly to them. It is unfortunate that we give it to big companies. We are working on this. ‘It will be our effort that subsidy goes directly into the bank account of farmers and consumers. Perhaps, the government may start giving subsidy to account holders under the Jan Dhan Yojana.’
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