India is expecting to post its highest ever level of foodgrain production this year, according to the country’s agriculture minister, who is hopeful that a bumper yield will cool down the fast-rising food prices that have been a feature of the last six months.
Sharad Pawar told press that the he was anticipating over 263m tonnes of grain, a figure that is up by 4m tonnes on 2012’s production.
With nearly two-thirds of Indians depending on income from farms, and the agricultural sector growing at a higher-than-expected rate of 6% over the last year, this will be good news for rural workers.
City dwellers, too, will see Pawar’s statement as good news after seeing food inflation rising to a year-on-year peak of just under 20% in November—although the final-year figure had come down to a still significant 13.68%.
The record harvest comes on the back of four consecutive normal monsoons and higher crop prices offered by the government in the form of minimum support prices. The PHD Chamber of Commerce has backed up government hopes with a projection that food inflation will go down to between 5% and 8% over the coming year while national GDP will accelerate to 5.5%.
Pawar’s announcement comes on the back of him winning praise from the president, Pranab Mukherjee, for the "tremendous progress" witnessed by the country’s farming sector over the decade he has been at the helm of Indian agriculture policy.
"In these 10 years, we have made tremendous achievement in the production of various crops,” Mukherjee said in a speech, adding that Pawar had given a "new direction" to the farming sector.
And having achieved self-sufficiency in agriculture over that period, the president acknowledged that India no longer depends on foreign countries for foodgrain, especially as it was in a position to export more of its produce.
On an uncharacteristically humble note by the powerful minister, Pawar has since responded by saying he is "the happiest agriculture minister in the world" to see this "stupendous performance" in the sector and the ability of farmers to produce more.
Separately, Pawar yesterday told parliament in a written reply that there are no “credible scientific reports” to prove that genetically modified crops are having an adverse impact on environment, human health and livestock.
However, in light of the government’s moratorium on GM food crops, he added: “A final view on the commercialisation of GM crops is taken only when there is a clear economic and technical justification for release.”