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Mumbai: Union minister for statistics and programme implementation D. V. Sadananda Gowda said on Tuesday his ministry is implementing a pilot project to integrate remote sensing technology with crop cutting experiments (CCE) to improve the accuracy of crop yield estimates.
He was addressing a video conference with journalists from nine states on the achievements of the ministry of statistics and programme implementation in three years of the Narendra Modi government’s rule.
The pilot project is being implemented in collaboration with Mahalanobis National Crop Forecasting Centre (MNCFC) under the Department of Agriculture, said T.C.A. Anant, chief statistician and secretary, ministry of statistics and programme implementation. He, however, refused to reveal the names of the states where the pilot project is being implemented. “Through this pilot, the National Statistical Survey Office is examining the feasibility of integrating the data on crop cutting experiments collected by the state governments and the data on crop density obtained through satellite images obtained by MNCFC,” he said.
The announcement is significant in the wake of the far from accurate estimates of Tur (pigeon peas) yield in Maharashtra, India’s highest Tur growing state, for the 2016-17 season. Based on the second advanced estimates issued by the Pune-based Agriculture Commissionerate, Maharashtra government in March 2017 announced that the state would have a yield of 1.17 million tonnes of Tur. However, barely a fortnight later in April, Maharashtra’s agriculture department revised the estimates by a huge margin saying the state would actually produce a record Tur yield of 2.35 million tonnes. This wide gap between two estimates issued within a span of 15 days has caused a problem of scale for the state government, which now is under pressure from farmers to buy Tur at the minimum support price declared by the Centre. The estimates of crop yield issued by the agriculture departments of various state governments are based on the CCE, which is a manual exercise conducted by government staff on a sample basis with a small sample size.
The Indian Agricultural Statistics Research Institute (IASRI), the statistical arm of Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), conducts the CCE every year in collaboration with the agriculture, revenue, and rural development staff of the state governments, to arrive at estimates about acreage under different crops and their yields.
This exercise results in five rounds of estimates issued by the Department of Agriculture at the Centre and state governments. Of late however, farm sector experts and even government officials have expressed doubts over the accuracy of these estimates.
On Maharashtra not being able to make a precise estimate about Tur yield, Anant said the initial estimates are always approximate and they get revised as new data come in. “The estimates are revised as and when new data are available and at the initial stage they are approximate,” he said.