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Food output rises 11% to touch all-time high

business Updated: Jul 19, 2011 23:46 IST
Zia Haq

India’s production of food has reached a historic all-time high, rising 11% over last year’s. Yet, food inflation continues to edge above 8% — a result of production not keeping pace with demand.

The Reserve Bank of India has been citing a shift in consumption pattern as one of the main reasons for high food prices. With expanding incomes, demand has shifted to richer diets, creating pressure on common food articles.

The government’s fourth of the quarterly projections for the year show record output of eight commodities – wheat, coarse cereals, maize, soyabean, cotton and three varieties of lentils. Yet, the food price index rose 8.31% in the year to July 2.

According to official estimates, the country has produced 241.56 million tonnes of foodgrains during 2010-11 — producing 23 million tonnes more than the last crop year and missing the government’s target of 244 million tonnes by a whisker. This is highest ever foodgrain production, outstripping the earlier record of 234.47 million tonnes achieved in 2008-09.

Wheat output is projected to be 85.93 million tonnes, an all-time record and a jump of 18% over last year’s. Production of pulses has improved considerably to reach 18.09 million tonnes. With this, the country may not have to import costly lentils —a staple for most Indians — for the first time in many years to meet domestic demand, pegged at 18 million tonnes a year.

Farmers in some parts also beat back a partial drought in major rice-producing states to post robust output of winter-sown rice.

However none of this is to say that India’s food crisis has eased.

The total demand for foodgrains is expected to touch 280 million tonnes by 2020-21, for which food output must grow at least 2% on average annually, while it has grown only 1% on average between 1998 and 2007, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Sunday.