As the economy prospers, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s target of four per cent growth in agriculture may not be enough to feed the country, Rajya Sabha MP and leading agricultural expert M.S. Swaminathan has said.
Swaminathan, also the chairman of the National Commission on Farmers, feels that with the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme extended to the entire country, the poor and undernourished segment of the population will have more money to buy food. This could push up prices in villages and cities.
“With the consumption of food among the poor increasing, four per cent growth in agriculture is not enough. We will need more food," the MP told HT. He has written to the government asking for a low-cost food distribution scheme to be linked with NREGP.
Swaminathan wrote to the government earlier this week saying that with the rural job scheme extending to all 596 districts, the government would “need to ensure the availability of food at reasonable prices through the Public Distribution System.”
Swaminathan's letter, addressed to Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh says: “If the NREGP workers are in a position to consume more, particularly since they are right now suffering from under and malnutrition, the prices of foodgrain and other commodities may go up."
The Economic Survey says the agriculture sector has flagged further in 2007-08, with the growth rate falling from 3.8 per cent in the previous year to 2.6 per cent this year.