Year-end trends in agriculture indicate that after February 2007, prices of agricultural products would fall, Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar, said on Wednesday.
Wholesale prices of agricultural produce in the capital fell by Rs 61, from Rs 1050 to Rs 989, on Tuesday, Pawar said. "All trends indicate that some problems would be there till February but after that there would be further drop in prices," he said at a press conference.
Pawar announced that the private sector has been allowed to import wheat at zero duty till the end of February. "This is being done to build up stocks," he said. A detailed review of the wheat situation in the country, he added, has revealed positive changes in the sector.
Pawar said that the timely onset of winter has augured well for the wheat crop, which has registered an impressive 10 per cent higher acreage in 2006 compared to last year's level. "There is no adverse impact on the winter sown crops," Pawar said, adding that he had reviewed crop situation from the meteorological perspective till Monday and there was no report of any adverse impact on crops including wheat.
The government's special focus on increasing the wheat acreage during this Rabi season is showing results as the acreage till last week stood at 232.59 lakh hectare as against 210.62 lakh hectare in the same period last year.
This year higher coverage has been reported in Bihar, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. "1.5 million hectares have been added to the area that was under wheat cultivation last year,’’ the minister informed, adding that fertilizer consumption too has recorded a 10 per cent rise.
A good bout of the northwest monsoon has also been good for agriculture. The rainfall this year has been 32 per cent more than last year, till the same time. While in North India, weather conditions have remained good, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh was experiencing temperatures 2 degrees above normal. "But temperatures in these two states are also coming down," he said.
While in most other crops the situation is good, there is a problem with the availability of maize (corn), and the poultry industry is bearing the brunt of it. "There are two reasons for the shortage. One is that the area under maize cultivation is not enough. Secondly, sizeable land under corn cultivation has been diverted into other products,’’ Pawar said.
Pawar said that he has called a meeting with chief ministers to finalise draft plan exclusively for agriculture in the next plan period. The meeting could be held in March.