New Delhi, Sept. 13
THE Finance Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, said on Tuesday that he expects the farm output for the current fiscal to be higher than the level achieved last year. His optimism stems from the fact that more area has been brought under cultivation this year as compared to last fiscal.
Mr Chidambaram was of the view that the farm sector must grow by three to four per cent if the country was to achieve a sustained gross domestic product (GDP) growth of over eight per cent annually. Last fiscal, the country's agricultural output grew by 1.1 per cent.
"I expect agricultural growth to be significantly better this year. For all crops, except one item, the area sown is higher than previous year", Mr Chidambaram said on the sidelines of a Nabard function organised to felicitate the best performing self-help groups, farmers' club and co-operative banks.
While preferring not to hazard a guess on the farm sector growth rate for the current fiscal, Mr Chidambaram said, "we are keeping our fingers crossed".
"It is the farm sector that grabs most of our time. A sum of Rs 1,74,000 crore will be provided for Bharat Nirman in 3-4 years," he said.
On the issue of expanding farm credit, the Finance Minister said the Government was motivating PSU Bank Chairmen to lend more to farmers. He said that the farm credit last year touched a level of Rs 1,15,000 crore as against the targeted level of Rs 1,05,000 crore.
For the current fiscal, the farm credit target has been set at Rs 1,41,000 crore. The Finance Minister also said that it would not be a problem for the PSU banks to exceed farm credit level of Rs 1,60,000 crore during 2006-07.