Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday cautioned states against spending less on agriculture and promised incentives for doubling farm growth to 4 per cent a year during the Eleventh Five-Year Plan.
Speaking at a full Planning Commission meeting, he said, “At less than 2 per cent, poor agricultural growth is a cause for rural distress.”
“Reversing the prolonged slowdown in agriculture and enhancing its growth to 4 per cent per annum is critical to the well-being not just of the large population but also to ensuring equitable, inclusive growth," Singh, also the chairman of the Planning Commission, said.
Singh wanted states to step up expenditure on the farm sector to at least 6 per cent of their total outlay from the low 3.5 per cent now. The Prime Minister said the Centre would devise ways of helping states that were willing to evolve strategies tailored to specific agro-climatic conditions. He said he had directed the Planning Commission to work with the agriculture ministry and come up with proposals to promote such strategies.
Singh stressed the need to ensure that the strategies adopted for the farm sector deliver some results in the short and medium term so that tangible benefits were visible—to farmers, consumers and the rural economy as a whole.
“This is important if we have to avert any crisis in the agrarian sector and fulfil the needs of a growing economy,” the Prime Minister stated.
Singh underlined concerns regarding poverty, the poor performance of agriculture, the need to generate employment and persisting regional disparities.
“In many ways, these problems are inter-related and we would be mitigating other problems to some extent,” he added.
The Approach paper to the Eleventh Plan had targeted doubling the rate of growth of agriculture from less than 2 per cent between 1996 and 2004 to 4 per cent.
Agricultural yields, Singh said, could be increased by 40-100 per cent in the next three or four years by focusing on yield gap reduction and expanding the area under cultivation.
"There are substantial yield gaps in all states — between actually achieved at the farm level and the yields that are feasible given the agro-climatic constraints and the existing technologies," Singh emphasised.
"The manner in which the fertiliser subsidy is ballooning is a cause for concern. In addition to the fiscal sustainability of such a subsidy in the long term, we need to see whether such a subsidy is delivering the outcomes we desire, " he added said.