Foodgrain production for 2011-12 will touch an all-time high of 252.56 million tonnes, raising prospects for more exports while triggering storage concerns.

The 3 per cent rise in output over previous year's 244.78 mt was aided by higher wheat and rice output.

Releasing the third set of advance crop estimates, the Agriculture Minister, Mr Sharad Pawar, said production of rice and wheat for 2011-12 will touch an all-time record of 103.41 million tonnes and 90.23 million tonnes respectively. However, the production of oilseeds and pulses were marginally lower than the previous year.

“The overall production is good. The problem will be storage,” Mr Pawar said. Stocks with Food Corporation of India stood at 27.88 million tonnes as of April 1.

Cotton output will also touch a record high of 35.2 million bales of 170 kg each, up from the earlier projection of 34.1 million bales. “There's scope for additional quota for cotton exports,” Mr Pawar said.

The Government had permitted exports of 12 million bales in the 2011-12 marketing year ending September. However, no further shipments are being registered for exports to ensure higher domestic supplies.

Even sugar output is expected to hit a record high of 26 million tonnes. “The domestic stocks for next year will be more than comfortable and we have to take a quick view on exports considering that international sugar prices were going down with the arrival of Brazilian sugar in the market,” Mr Pawar said.

Commodity exports

The Agriculture Minister had written to the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, seeking his intervention stating that current export policies were hurting farmers. The Prime Minister will chair a meeting on April 30 to look into the issue of commodity exports, Mr Pawar said.

Replying on concerns over reports of below normal monsoon this year, he said “we should not worry about it.” The India Meteorological Department is expected to issue its monsoon forecast on April 26.

Meanwhile, admitting growing concerns on the storage front, the Food Minister, Mr K.V. Thomas, said his Ministry was in touch with States to deal with the rise in output. Talks are also on with States for additional foodgrain offtake.

FCI has been told to hire more godowns from the private sector and also increase the capacity utilisation of existing storage space, Mr Thomas said. As of April 1, FCI had a storage capacity of 60.06 million tonnes.

vishwa@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on April 23, 2012)
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