Economic survey urges more focus on raising farm yield

New Delhi, February 27:

The Economic Survey 2005-06 released today stresses the need for reviewing agriculture policy with regard to the minimum support price offered to farmers for food grains and more focus on improving farm yield.

Released in parliament on the eve of the budget presentation, the report underscores that while outlook for food production is good for the current year, there is need to improve domestic production of pulses and oilseeds through a change in policy for broad-based agricultural development.

“Indian agriculture suffers from low yields per hectares, volatility in production and wide disparities of productivity over regions and crops. Domestic production of pulses and oilseeds are still below the domestic requirement,” the report states. Though India accounted for 21.8 per cent of global paddy production, the yield per hectare in 2002 was less than that in neighbouring Bangladesh and Myanmar and only about a third of that in Egypt, which had the highest yield in the reference year, the survey has pointed out.

Similarly, in the case of wheat, while India accounted for 12 per cent of global production in 2002 and had yields higher than the global average, it was nonetheless only a third of the highest level achieved in Britain. The story was the same in case of maize and groundnut. It was only in sugarcane that the yield was in excess of the global average levels, the report states.

While there is some scope for wasteland reclamation, there are obvious limitations to the extensive margins in Indian agriculture, according to the report. “Enhancement of agricultural growth is essential for achieving the overall GDP growth rate in the range of eight per cent to 10 per cent and improved productivity is critical for achieving accelerated agricultural growth,” the survey states.

Buoyed by a normal summer monsoon that accounts for 80 per cent of rainfall in the country, the Economic Survey for 2005-06 has estimated a growth rate of 2.3 per cent in the agricultural production for the fiscal as against a lower growth rate of 0.7 per cent during 2004-05. The total food grain production is estimated to be 209.3 million tonnes in the year against 204.6 million tonnes in 2004-05. The kharif (summer crop harvested in winter) production has been estimated at 105.3 million tonnes in 2005-06 against 103.3 million tonnes in 2004-05, while the rabi (winter crop harvested in early summer) is expected to be around the previous year’s level of 101.3 million tonnes.

In its outlook for the agricultural sector, the Economic Survey terms horticulture, floriculture, organic farming, genetic engineering, food processing, branding and packaging and futures trading as the areas emerging with a potential for high growth. It calls for development of rural infrastructure, rural extension services and agro-based and food processing industries to harness this potential.