Heavy investment needed in farm sector

The Economic Survey 2012-13 has underscored the need for investing heavily in agriculture sector to achieve the 4 per cent growth in the farm sector in the 12th five year plan – a target that was missed in the previous plan period.

The Economic Survey presented to the Lok Sabha on Wednesday noted that the country would have to invest heavily in farm research, rural infrastructure, providing better access to high value markets, better credit facilities and input use to motivate the farming community to produce more and thus to achieve the four per cent growth rate over the next five years.

Pointing out that production of food-grains in 2011-12 was at a record high of 259.32 million tones, the survey noted that the average annual growth of 3.6 per cent under the 11th Five-Year-Plan for the agriculture and allied sector fell short of the target of four per cent.

According to the survey, production of 2012-13 kharif crops is likely to be adversely affected by deficiencies in southwest monsoon and the resultant acreage losses. The output is expected to decline in all major crops, although yield levels significantly improved for cotton, pulses and coarse cereals during 2000-2012.

Identifying supply-chain management in agricultural marketing as “a critical issue”, the survey noted that the government’s decision to allow foreign capital inflow in multi-brand retail would pave the way for investment in new technology and marketing of agricultural produce.

The survey took note of the wide yield gaps among various crops across the country. Agriculture production could be substantially increased if the issue of yield gap was addressed by adopting technological and policy interventions. “Improvement in yields holds the key for India to remain self-sufficient in food grains and also make a place for itself in many agricultural crops and products in the international market,” it noted.

Underling the concerns over declining per capita availability of food grains, the survey stated that it was not only important to increase per capita availability of food-grain, but also to ensure right amounts of food-items in the food basket of the common man.
The Economic survey also underscored the growing concerns on land and water degradation due to soil erosion, soil salinity, water-logging, excessive application of nutrients, over-exploitation of water resources, especially in the Green Revolution belt.

The survey cautioned that climate change and extreme weather events with greater intensity and frequency could have serious implications for agriculture sector and create greater instability in food production and thereby livelihood of farmers.

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