Foodgrain output revised upwards to record 273.4 million tonnes
New Delhi: The agriculture ministry on Tuesday raised its estimate of foodgrain production to 273.4 million tonnes, marking 2016-17 as the best crop year in Indian history. The latest estimate is higher than the 272 million tonnes forecast by the ministry in its second advance estimates released in mid February.
The record foodgrain production is 8.7% higher than the 252 million tonnes produced the year before (2015-16) when a drought cut output, and 8 million tonnes (3.2%) more than the previous record of 265 million tonnes achieved in 2013-14.
“As a result of very good rainfall during monsoon 2016 and various policy initiatives taken by the government, the country has witnessed record foodgrain production in the current year,” the agriculture ministry said in a statement.
Higher production of key crops like wheat, rice and pulses will not only keep food inflation in check, but also lead to lower imports, besides supporting the rebound in agriculture growth rate (estimated at 4.4% in 2016-17).
Consecutive droughts in 2014 and 2015 led to a surge in imports of pulses and wheat during 2015-16.
The record production in 2016-17 came on the back of a normal monsoon last year, despite an acute drought in southern states such as Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Reinforcing the estimate put out in February, the latest numbers from the farm ministry show that production of key crops such as rice, wheat and pulses will be at record levels.
While wheat production is estimated to rise by 5.5% to 97.4 million tonnes in 2016-17 (compared with 92.3 million tonnes in 2015-16), production of pulses is likely to rise 37% from 16.4 million tonnes last year to 22.4 million tonnes in 2016-17.
Production of rice, the most popular staple, is estimated to increase by about 5 million tonnes to 109.2 million tonnes in 2016-17 from 104.4 million tonnes in the previous year.
Other than foodgrains, the estimates show that production of oil seeds is set to rise 29% to 32.5 million tonnes in 2016-17 from 25.3 million tonnes in the previous year .
However, sugarcane production is expected to be lower at 306 million tonnes (2016-17), from 348 million tonnes the year before. Production of cotton is set to increase to 32.6 million bales in 2016-17 (one bale equals 170 kg) from 30 million bales in the previous year. However, this is lower than the past record of 35.9 million bales produced in 2013-14.
“Breaching past records of food production isn’t an achievement at a time when all southern states are reeling under a severe drought and there is an utter senses of despair among farmers,” said Kavitha Kuruganti of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (Asha), a collective of farm organizations.
“This year, due to a record harvest, farmers were forced to sell pulses at lower than government announced support prices. So the centre needs to move beyond production targets to ensuring better incomes,” she added.