Despite patchy rainfall in some parts, the Agriculture Ministry has set a foodgrain production target of 285.2 million tonnes for 2018-19, a marginal increase from the previous year’s harvest of 284.8 million tonnes.
Rainfall deficit during the current monsoon season is now at 10%, according to the Indian Meteorological Department.
“Some areas got extra rainfall, some areas were deficient. But in spite of the patchy rains, we are expecting that the overall production will still be good for the kharif season,” Minister of State for Agriculture Parshottam Rupala told participants at the Ministry’s annual conference on strategies for the rabi, or winter crop season, on Tuesday.
The 2018-19 targets for rice, at 113 million tonnes, and wheat, at 100 million tonnes, are marginally higher than last year’s harvest. However, the targets for pulses, coarse cereals and maize are slightly lower.
“Targets should be balanced, not too high,” Agriculture Commissioner S.K. Malhotra told The Hindu. “We must produce enough to address food and nutrition security needs, but we must also address the income security of farmers. If targets are too high, and there is excess production, farmers will suffer,” he said, adding that there was a need to improve access to export markets in the case of high production.
Over the last two years of normal monsoons and record harvests, prices of several commodities have crashed, hurting many farmers. The government has ramped up procurement of pulses and oilseeds in an effort to ensure that more farmers receive the minimum support price (MSP) for these crops even as the market rates fall, but that has led to a shortage of storage capacity.
“We are holding 44 lakh tonnes of pulses, 57 lakh tonnes including oilseeds,” S.K. Verma, executive director of the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED), said. “In States like Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, there is no space left in the godowns.” Warehouse capacity is making some States consider the new Central scheme to pay oilseed farmers the cash differential between MSP and market prices. A ministry official told The Hindu that Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have expressed interest in opting for the scheme, which was approved by the Union Cabinet as part of a wider ₹15,053 crore procurement policy.