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Summer-sown food output to be record high, pulse production gets boost

india Updated: Sep 23, 2016 00:34 IST
Zia Haq
Zia Haq
Hindustan Times
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In this file photo, workers and customers look through the goods at a wholesale food grain and commodities shop in the Agricultural Product Marketing Committee (APMC) Yard in Bengaluru. (AFP)

India is looking at the highest ever summer-sown food output, with production of rice, maize and pulses projected to go up on the back of a good monsoon, farm minister Radha Mohan Singh said on Thursday.

The foodgrain production was estimated to touch 135 million tonne, an all-time high, and a jump of 9% from last year, the minister said, hoping higher output would lead to lower prices.

The output is 3.7% higher than the 131.3 million tonnes in 2011-12, the previous record, under the UPA government .

“(This is) the result of policies, hard work of farmers and good weather,” Singh said, revealing the first of the four quarterly estimates.

The big boost is expected in pulses that have roiled household budgets because of scarcity and high prices. With an expected harvest of 8.7 million tonne, kharif pulses would see a 57% rise over last year. This is 1.6 million tonne more than the record output of 2010-11.

Summer crops account for slightly more than half of the country’s total production. If rains are adequate, the overall economy gets a boost. Higher farm incomes push up rural sales of most consumer items -- from gold to cars.

When the harvest is good, nearly half of all the television sets and motorcycles are sold in the countryside, important to keep the manufacturing sector going.

Two policy decisions aided a shift to food crops, especially pulses. The government offered higher minimum support prices for pulses that also act as a floor price for private traders.

The government will also buy large amounts of pulses from farmers and hold them in reserve. These measures are aimed at giving cultivators a ready market.

Farmers sowed 4% more area than what is considered normal for summer.

Sugarcane output, however, is estimated to be lower at 305.24 million tonne from 352.16 million tonne last year.

The south-west monsoon -- vital because 60% of farms don’t have irrigation facilities -- has been normal or surplus in 88% of the country’s total area. Overall, the rain has been 5% below average.

The turnaround in harvest comes after two years of crippling drought. In 2014 and 2015, the rains were deficient by 12% and 14%, leading to widespread rural distress.