Exceeding target, the country is set to harvest a record 250 million tonnes of foodgrains this year, as efforts to push farm growth seem to be paying off, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Wednesday.
"Our farmers have done us proud again this year. ... but we still have a long way to go. ... we cannot afford to be complacent since demand of horticulture and animal products is increasing very rapidly and this will require some shift of area away from production of foodgrains.
"Therefore productivity in foodgrains has to go up handsomely," he said at a workshop at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
The workshop is the part of the initiative of President Pratibha Patil for enhancing farm productivity, especially in rainfed areas. A Committee of Governors constituted by the President has already met twice.
Besides Patil, today's meeting was attended by over 20 governors, eight union ministers, five chief ministers and 37 vice chancellors of agricultural universities.
The Prime Minister said foodgrains production will exceed the target by five million tonnes and cotton output at 34 million bales is a new record as per the latest estimates.
However, there was only one per cent growth rate in food production in the country, against two per cent required to meet India's grain requirement by 2020-21, he said.
The Prime Minister also pointed out distortions arising from pricing and subsidy regimes resulting into soil degradation.
He expressed concern over volatility in prices of farm products. "There is a big gap between farm gate and retail prices that the consumers pay. There is also volatility with prices being low after harvest. We need to address all this by reforming agricultural marketing systems and investing in supply chains," he said.
The Prime Minister stressed the need of private investment in marketing logistics, particularly in sub-sectors with perishable products, as well as in agricultural research areas like extension activities.
Singh called for a special focus on rainfed areas, where farm productivity continues to be low.
"Rainfed farming continues to be a gamble with nature and cases of distress continue to be reported despite our efforts," he said, adding that productivity in rainfed areas, must be improved.
Rainfed farming account for about 60% of the country's total cropped area. It contributes more than 80 per cent of the oilseeds and pulses grown in the country.
The Prime Minister also observed that a strong agriculture is necessary for food security and inclusive growth cannot be achieved in its true sense without providing livelihood security to the farmers.
Referring to the suggestions made by the three core groups, constituted by PMO, to look into agricultural issues, Singh said, "These groups have given their reports and Ministry of Food and Agriculture have examined them. I am told that most of the recommendations are acceptable and action on them has either already been taken or is underway."
Agriculture and allied sectors have grown at an estimated rate of 3.5% in the 11th Five-Year Plan (1997-2012), compared to the growth rate of 2.4 per cent in the previous plan period, he added.
The foodgrains production in 2010-11 crop year (July-June) stood at 244.78 million tonnes.