New Delhi: India plans an ambitious project to boost flagging agricultural output by 11% over the next four years and reduce the need for imports, a top official said on 28 June.
Agricultural growth has slipped from 5% annually in the mid-1980s to less than 2% in the past five years -- badly lagging behind the blistering gains seen in the manufacturing and service sectors.
“The blueprint for the Food Security Mission is ready and we will release it within a week,” India’s Agriculture Commissioner N.B. Singh said.
The moves to increase food output by 11% by 2011 come less than a month after India voiced concern about falling farm production, saying it was fuelling inflation in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.
“The aim (of this project) is to correct that (by 2011) and also cut down on large imports,” Singh told AFP. India has said that with its large population, it cannot afford to become a major food importer.
The dismal farm output has been attributed to small landholdings, a lack of farmer access to capital to buy new technology and seeds, and an over-use of soil damaging fertilisers.
Agriculture contributes 18.5% of India’s economic output but directly or indirectly supports 650 million of its billion-plus population.
Annual per capita food grain production has slumped from 207 kg in 1995 to 186 kg last year, lagging behind even sub-Saharan Africa.
The project will use funds from national poverty alleviation programmes to bolster the moribund farm sector, Singh said, adding more details would be announced when the plan is officially released.