New Delhi, Dec 28 (PTI) While India achieved a record foodgrain production level this year, the government had to withdraw three controversial agriculture-reform laws. Apart from this, the consumers of the country were worried due to the inflation of edible oil during the year. Now amidst all the problems related to the epidemic, better yield is expected in the year 2022 as well.
The production of food grains in the country has been increasing steadily, which has helped the government to provide free additional ration to the poor families affected by COVID for several months. On the other hand, this year three controversial agricultural laws were in the news. These laws were repealed after a long protest by farmers on the borders of Delhi.
The Indian agriculture sector was one of the sectors that performed well amid the pandemic. The agriculture sector is expected to register a growth rate of 3.5 per cent in the current financial year ending March, 2022.
In the crop year 2020-21 that ended in June, food grains production touched an all-time high of 300.86 million tonnes. The production in the current crop year is likely to reach 310 million tonnes.
The government procured wheat, rice, pulses, cotton and oilseeds in huge quantities at the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for the benefit of the farmers.
During the year 2020-21, the procurement of paddy and wheat reached a record 894.18 lakh tonnes and 433.44 lakh tonnes respectively. According to government data, pulses were procured at 21.91 lakh tonnes, coarse cereals 11.87 lakh tonnes and oilseeds at 11 lakh tonnes.
The farmers’ agitation, which started in November 2020 amid record production, finally came to an end this month. Parliament passed a bill to repeal three controversial agricultural laws on the first day of the winter session on November 29. The Supreme Court had stayed the implementation of these laws in January itself.
The Kisan Sanghs are claiming victory of their struggle after forcing the Center to accede to their demands. On the contrary, economists and government officials see it as a setback in an effort to reform the agricultural marketing system.
NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chand said, “We were expecting that one-fifth of the country’s farmers would benefit from the implementation of the three agricultural reforms. We completely missed that opportunity. However, I think this setback is temporary.
The NITI Aayog member said if agriculture laws had been implemented, “it would have helped in achieving the goal of doubling farmers’ income to a large extent”.
Three laws passed by Parliament in September 2020 aimed to give freedom to farmers to sell their crop products beyond the notified mandis. Its other main objectives were to create a framework for contract farming and to regulate the supply of essential commodities only in exceptional circumstances.
The overall performance of the agriculture sector this year has been strong, Chand said. He said, “Agriculture growth rate remains intact. This year, we expect a growth rate of 3.5 per cent in agriculture by the end of March 2022, which is similar to last year’s level.
Agriculture Commissioner SK Malhotra said the country’s foodgrain production could reach 310 million tonnes in the crop year 2021-22 (July-June). Good monsoon rains, adoption of new technologies and successful implementation of government schemes like PM-KISAN have led to increase in production.
Malhotra said crop productivity is improving as farmers are adopting better seed varieties apart from resistance to diseases and adverse climatic conditions.
The official also informed that unseasonal rains have affected the perishable and horticultural produce in some parts of the country. As a result, prices of some commodities like tomatoes have gone up. Despite bumper production of oilseeds crops, edible oil prices have risen to unprecedented highs due to global cues.
India meets around 60-65 per cent of the domestic demand for edible oils through imports, which touched a record Rs 1.17 lakh crore in the 2020-21 season ended in October. The prices of mustard oil rose to around Rs 200 per liter and the prices of other edible oils also increased.
During the year, the government reduced the import duty of palm oil as well as other oils several times to bring down the domestic prices but the rates are still high. To keep prices under control, the government also banned futures trading in many commodities and imposed stock limits on traders and wholesalers.
The sharp rise in area under Rabi oilseeds has raised hopes of a possible fall in edible oil prices in the new year.
In other developments, IFFCO, a leading cooperative, introduced nano-urea in liquid form which is expected to reduce India’s import as well as subsidy expenditure.
IFFCO Managing Director US Awasthi said, “We have started production of Nano Urea commercially and we have produced 15 crore bottles of Nano Urea so far, saving the government subsidy of Rs 6,000 crore. ”
The year 2021 also saw huge investments in agritech startups. These units are working in the area of agricultural consultancy, cost provisioning and marketing support. The use of new technologies like drones is also being started in the agriculture sector.
The government has also announced the formation of a committee to look into the issue of legal guarantees for the Minimum Support Price (MSP) regime, a key demand of farmer unions.
An amicable solution to the MSP issue is expected in the new year.