New Delhi: Driven by hopes of a good monsoon, the Centre has set an ambitious target of producing a record 270.1 million tonnes (mt) of foodgrains in the crop year beginning June. The government’s target for 2016-17 is 7% higher than the 252.23 mt of production estimated for 2015-16.
The ambitious target is even higher than India’s record foodgrain output of 265 mt in 2013-14. Last year, the government had set a target of 264 mt (2015-16), which eventually fell short by 12 mt—according to the third advance estimate released earlier this month—and is likely to be revised downwards due to lower wheat output.
Similarly, for 2014-15, the centre had set a target of 261 mt that eventually fell short by 9 mt. In 2013-14, owing to a good monsoon, India had surpassed its foodgrain production target of 259 mt by over 5 mt.
While 2014 and 2015 were both deficit monsoon years, India is expected to witness above-normal rains in 2016. The June-to-September southwest monsoon which irrigates more than half of India’s crop area will be 106% of the long-period average, the India Meteorological Department forecast last month.
“The government is only taking into account the monsoon forecast but prices too play a crucial role as to how much farmers will produce,” said Ashok Gulati, agriculture chair professor at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, Delhi.
Gulati further said that during 2013-14, farming was profitable and average returns were between 20% to 30% for most crops. “Prices have collapsed now and returns are even negative for some crops,” he said, adding, “without sufficient hike in support prices (at which centre procures foodgrains from farmers to supply under the subsidised public distribution system) farmers will not see an incentive to produce more. The government is too optimistic. It should be pragmatic and know that if wishes were horses, beggars will ride.”
According to the figures released on Wednesday, India’s pulses production is targeted at 20.75 mt in 2016-17, 21.6% higher than the estimated 17.06 mt produced in 2015-16. Target production for pulses—India imports nearly a quarter of its domestic consumption—is higher than the best-ever production of 19.25 mt achieved in 2013-14.
Similarly, target production of wheat is 96.5 mt for 2016-17, higher than the estimated 94mt crop size in 2015-16, and surpassing the highest-ever wheat crop of 95.85 mt in 2013-14.
Target for oilseed production, for which India is heavily dependent on imports, is set at 35mt, 35% higher than the 25.9 mt estimated for 2015-16.
Targets for cotton output is set at 36 million bales (of 170kg each) for 2016-17, compared to 30.5 million bales estimated for 2015-16.
While approving the targets for the upcoming crop year, agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said that despite two consecutive drought years, production of foodgrains went up in 2015-16, and the target for 2016-17 is ‘ambitious’ as ‘a good monsoon is expected in the coming months’.