Guest Author: Dr Shivendra Bajaj, Executive Director, Federation of Seed Industry of India
26 February 2021, New Delhi: Agriculture sector in India helped in the speedy recovery of the economic growth post the pandemic. India’s agriculture and allied sectors helped the farm sector clock a growth rate of 3.4 percent in the financial year 2020-21. It is lower than the last year’s growth but is the best when compared with other sectors during pandemic. Despite the disruptions in the supply chain during the Covid-19- led lockdowns, Indian agriculture is set to perform better.
According to the first advance estimates issued by the Agriculture Ministry, food grain production is expected to be 144.52 million tonnes in Kharif 2020-21 as against 143.38 million tonnes in the previous year. While oilseeds output would be lower, other commercial crops such as sugarcane, cotton are likely to do well. Interestingly, the cultivation of the majority of Rabi crops too have brought good news as the area under cultivation has seen an increase of 2.86 percent this Rabi season. Area sown under wheat has increased by 2.95 percent year-on-year in Rabi 2020-21 to 34.63 million hectares. For rice, the increase is over 16.63 percent. (Attachment 1). All this shows the resilience of Indian agriculture sector.
Dr Shivendra Bajaj, Executive Director, Federation of Seed Industry of India, said “that while food production in many countries across the globe was hit, India appears to have taken appropriate measure that ensured farming processes did not get affected much and crop output remained satisfactory. In Russia, production of wheat has severely hit, causing Moscow to slow down exports. It has created huge gap between demand and supply, resulting in a surge in the international wheat prices. In past few days, wholesale wheat prices have increased by Rs 100 per quintal in India and the surge in international prices would certainly help farmers and traders earn more money. It would be crucial for the recovery”.
The Government of India too has driven the food grain procurement process with required enthusiasm. Presenting the annual budget, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman informed that as many as 4.33 million farmers were benefited this year through procurement of wheat under minimum support price (MSP). The number was 3.55 million last year. Moreover, the government has increased agriculture credit target to Rs 16.5 trillion in the budget, which was focused on farmer upliftment keeping rural growth in mind.
Overall, the farm sector in India looks to be on the path of recovery. There is a need to reform the agriculture sector for the required boost, support sustainable farming and consistent, assured profits for farmers, especially, in the wake of the government’s ambitious target of doubling farmers income. While the farm supply chain is almost back to the original state of affairs, the impetus should be on digitisation, science-based farm practices and value addition for the produce.
United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has said that the coronavirus crisis made it requisite for the entire world to strengthen agriculture and food systems. The crisis has given an opportunity for all stakeholders to come together and discuss economic, environmental, social and technological challenges the farm sector is facing, and find solutions to ensure food security and fair farm remunerations.