New Delhi: After two years of drought and declining crop production, a record foodgrain production on the back of a well distributed monsoon is expected in 2016-17, agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said on Thursday. While pulses production could touch 22 million tonnes, up 33% from last year, the upcoming Rabi or winter crop is also likely to be robust due to ample water levels in major reservoirs and adequate soil moisture.

“The monsoon this year has been well distributed with 5.3 million hectare more area planted under foodgrains (compared to the year before) and we are likely to see a record production of foodgrains," the minister told the National Conference on Rabi Campaign at Delhi, where the Centre along with states takes stock of the ongoing Kharif crop and plans for the winter crop, sowing for which begins from November.

Singh added that while the overall area under foodgrains has risen by 8% compared to last year, area under pulses has gone up by 29%.

In May, based on the forecast of a good monsoon, the Centre set a target of producing 270.1 million tonnes of foodgrains in 2016-17. The government’s target for 2016-17 is 7% higher than the 252.2 million tonnes of production estimated for 2015-16, and 2.3% higher than India’s record foodgrain output of 265 million tonnes in 2013-14.

“We are likely to break the record not only of foodgrains but also pulses output and the numbers could be the highest ever in the history of Indian farming," agriculture secretary S.K. Pattanayak said at the conference.

Pattanayak added that the government has already decided to expand India’s pulses buffer stock to 2 million tonnes, from 0.8 million tonnes earlier, and opened procurement centres to buy the moong crop (green gram) which has started arriving in the markets. The government’s expanded buffer stocks and raised support price following high retail prices over the past year.

“Central agencies will directly procure from farmers so that they don’t lose interest in pulses during the winter crop season," Pattanayak said.

India’s production of pulses fell to the lowest in six years in 2015-16. At 16.5 million tonnes, production dipped by over 14%, compared to the 19.25 million tonnes production achieved in 2013-14, the highest ever till date.

“This year, farmers have moved away from cash crops like cotton and sugarcane and moved towards pulses, maize and oilseeds. We can expect pulses production to be between 21 to 22 million tonnes this year," said S.K. Malhotra, agriculture commissioner.

According to a background note prepared by the ministry, India’s Kharif output of pulses is expected at 8.22 million tonnes, higher than the target of 7.25 million tonnes. The target for Rabi season is 13.5 million tonnes.

Malhotra added that the well distributed monsoon portends well for the upcoming Rabi or winter crop. “Water levels in major reservoirs is close to decadal averages and there is ample moisture in the soil to aid planting of Rabi crops," he said.