India’s agriculture and allied sectors helped the farm sector clock a growth rate of 3.4 per cent in the financial year 2020-21. It is lower than last year’s growth but it is still the best when compared to other sectors during the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the first advance estimates issued by the Agriculture Ministry, food grain production is expected to be 144.52 million ton in Kharif 2020-21 as against 143.38 million ton 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 has brought good news as the area under cultivation has seen an increase of 2.86 per cent this Rabi season. Area sown under wheat has increased by 2.95 per cent year-on-year in Rabi 2020-21 to 34.63 million hectares. For rice, the increase is over 16.63 per cent. All this shows the resilience of the Indian agriculture sector.
According to Dr Shivendra Bajaj, Executive Director, Federation of Seed Industry of India, “while food production in many countries across the globe was hit, India appears to have taken appropriate measures that ensured farming processes did not get affected much and crop output remained satisfactory. In Russia, the production of wheat has severely hit, causing Moscow to slow down exports. It has created a huge gap between demand and supply, resulting in a surge in international wheat prices. In the 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 has driven the food grain procurement process with the 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.