India would be reaping a record harvest of foodgrains in 2016-17 with
pulses being the high point of the country’s achievements in the farm
output, providing a food for thought about how policy interventions and
reaching out to farmers can motivate them to turn things around from
severe shortages to near self- sufficiency.
Receptive as they are to the changing production, consumption and
pricing pattern of different crops, aided by real time information made
possible through new media, farmers have risen once again to the
occasion. They would be producing 271.98 million tonnes of foodgrains in
2016-17, as per the second advance estimates, breaching the previous
record of 265.57 million tonnes in 2013-14. Year on year, total
foodgrains output would be rising by an impressive 8.1 per cent in
2016-17 over 251.56 million tonnes in the previous year.
If we draw a comparison between the previous best year of 2013-14 and
the new record breaking year of 2016-17, farmers picked up positive
signals for better returns and the minimum support price fixed by the
Central Government and went about increasing area under acreage for
pulses. In the last three years, the acreage for pulses went up from
252.18 lakh hectares to 288.58 lakh hectares with yields increasing from
19.78 million tonnes to 22.14 million tonnes. This would be close to the
country’s demand for the protein rich lentils, though the consumption is
bound to increase as average income of both rural and urban families
move up. Surely, this would mean a sustained focus on raising production
and achieving self-sufficiency for pulses.
But for now, the situation with regard to pulses prices has improved
considerably. Pulses are no more making headlines for sky-rocketing
prices which have now moved down to as much as Rs 4200-5500 per quintal
in the wholesale mandis. The retail annual inflation, measured by the
Consumer Price Index, for pulses and products was negative 6.62 per cent
for January, 2017. The credit for achieving near self-sufficiency goes
to farmers and to some of the effective measures taken by the
The strategy involved achieving higher acreage for pulses under the
rain-fed areas in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat,
Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, UP and Tamil Nadu. Sufficient
rains in 2016 too helped the farmers who were assured of an MSP along
with bonus for their produce. As pulses production involves risks
against the vagaries of weather, the upgraded crop insurance scheme
‘Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana’ (PMFBY) too motivated the farmers.
The estimated government expenditure on the PMFBY for 2016-17 is pegged
at Rs 13,240 crore.
One of the high points of the pulses story is the involvement of the
North Eastern states in the mission for stepping up production through
multi-pronged strategies. The game plan included rice fallows through
cluster demonstration of technologies by the extension machinery of the
states and Centre, intercropping with cereals, oilseeds and commercial
crops; cultivation of Arhar (Tur) on farm bunds, creation of seed hubs
for quality seeds, and distribution of seed mini kits free of cost to
farmers. India has been traditionally importing a large of pulses from
Mynamar which has similar climatic conditions to the North-Eastern
Besides, the pulses component of the National Food Security Mission has
been extended from 468 to 638 districts of 29 states including all
districts of North-Eastern states and hill states like Himachal Pradesh,
Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand.
Thanks to the record foodgrains production, helped by the weather Gods
as well, along with the policy interventions, the Indian agriculture is
set to achieve an impressive growth of over four per cent. The impact is
being seen widely on the availability and prices of the food products,
including vegetables in the market. However, it has to be ensured that a
good balance is achieved between a modest level of retail inflation and
remunerative prices to the growers. After all, farming as a profession
has to remain a priority for the country both for the welfare of the
farmers as also for ensuring national food security.
Rice and wheat would also be available in abundant quantity with the
harvest set to grow by 4.26 per cent and 4.71 per cent respectively in
the current crop year over 2015-16. For 2016-17 rice production is
expected to reach the highest ever record of 108.86 million tonnes.
On the other hand, wheat output would rise to 96.64 million tonnes in
2016-17, up by 4.71 per cent over the previous year.
A note-worthy feature of rice and wheat story is that the yield has
increased while the acreage dropped in the last three years, pointing
towards better farm productivity which, of course, needs to be further
supplemented. For rice, the area under cultivation in 2013-14 was 441.36
lakh hectares, giving an output of 106.65 million tonnes. The acreage in
2016-17 dropped to 427.44 lakh hectares, but production is estimated to
be going up to 108.86 million tonnes.
A similar picture has emerged for wheat. The area under cultivation in
2013-14 was 304.73 lakh hectares with an output of 95.85 million tonnes.
The comparative figure for 2016-17 is 302.31 lakh hectares, while
production is pegged at 96.64 million tonnes. Doubtlessly, the farmers
of the country need to be applauded for their efforts. Let’s hope,
assisted by several new measures taken by the government, the day is not
far when the farmers of our country will be a happy lot. As Prime
Minister Modi has said, “Give water to the farmers of this country and
see the wonders they can do. Through the Pradhanmantri Krishi Sinchai
Yojana, we want to ensure that water reaches every village across the
length and breadth of the country.” The Prime Minister has also said
that his government has a vision of doubling the farmers’ income by