Foodgrain output in the current season is expected to cross 250 million tonnes (mt) for the second consecutive year despite a drought in several parts of the country.

However, it will be lower by 3.6 per cent over last year’s record high of 259.32 mt.

“We had produced a record 260 mt last year. According to 2{+n}{+d} Advance Estimates, the foodgrain output has crossed 250 mt this year,” said the Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar inaugurating the India Seed Congress, 2013 organised by the National Seed Association of India.

The high foodgrain output, despite drought in parts of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka, will be sufficient to meet the domestic demand, Pawar said.

Cereals output

The 9 mt shortfall is mainly due to lower output of rice, wheat and coarse cereals though the production of pulses is expected to rise marginally to 17.58 mt over last year’s 17.09 mt.

The oilseed output is expected to decline marginally to 29.46 mt from 29.79 mt.

Rice production is expected drop 3.33 per cent to 101.8 mt from last year’s record level of 105.31 mt. The projected decline in rice output has already led to a flare up in prices of fine varieties mainly in the southern States.

The wheat is pegged lower at 92.30 mt, a 2.7 per cent decline from last year’s record 94.88 mt.

“There is no need to worry over the 9 mt drop in output as there are more than ample stocks. It is a blessing in disguise otherwise the foodgrain stocks would have touched 100 mt in July. The price increase witnessed in rice and wheat is due to the sub-optimal management of food economy,” said Ashok Gulati, Chairman, Commission for Agricultural Cost and Prices, the crop advisory body.

Foodgrain stocks in the Central Pool stood at 66.19 mt as on February 1, more than twice the buffer and strategic requirement norm.

Wheat stocks were estimated at 30.8 mt and rice at 35.38 mt.

“In a bad monsoon year, the production of rice and wheat is on expected lines, but there has been no improvement in the output of oilseeds and pulses, where inflation is high,” said D.K. Joshi, Chief Economist, CRISIL.

Interestingly, the Central Statistics Office (CSO), while forecasting a decade low GDP growth of 5 per cent for 2012-13 on Thursday, had estimated farm growth at 1.8 per cent for the year, lower than 3.6 per cent last year.

Cash crops

Cash crops such as cotton and sugarcane are also expected to be lower than last year. Cotton production is pegged at 33.80 million bales of 170 kg each against last year’s 35.20 million bales.

Jute and mesta is down at 11.13 million bales of 180 kg each against 11.40 million bales.

Sugarcane is expected to be lower at 334.54 mt (361.04 mt).

Vishwanath.kulkarni@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on February 8, 2013)
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