The government could be overplaying achievements in farm sector, the Planning Commission’s mid-term review, ratified on Tuesday, indicates.
Crops are aging, seeds replacement is slow and irrigated land almost stagnant despite 80 per cent of all agriculture funds being spent on irrigation, the mid-term farm report, which HT has reviewed, says.
Farm growth — which can reduce poverty twice as fast as industry — has gone negative by 0.2 per cent in 2009-10 from 1.6 per cent a year before. It has slid progressively from a robust 4 per cent for three years between 2005-06 and 2007-08.
Weather could have more to do with the good going than the government spending. “There is still no adequate analysis of how much of this was due to increased allocation… rather than to favourable weather…” says the review.
Agriculture has to grow at an impossible rate of 7 per cent in the next two years to meet the five-yearly target of 4 per cent, which remains a “challenge”, the review says. The 11th five-year plan ends in fiscal 2012.
The review shows that the sector suffers on multiple counts. The high-productivity north-west region — Punjab to Gujarat — now needs a “technology breakthrough”, which can be in the form of new crop varieties and farm techniques. “...farmers have been using the same varieties and techniques for more than a decade now.”
Ticking off the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, the review says there is a gap between crop varieties used by farmers and those released by its scientists. Bihar and Chhattisgarh — traditionally the laggards — are the new star performers alongside Andhra, Maharashtra and Gujarat.